Why financial institutions should leverage EMV migration to maximize their debit portfolio

While most debit card issuers are making progress on EMV migration, this is also a good time to be taking a deeper look at the performance of their debit portfolio. Conversion to EMV will require issuers to incur increased costs issuing new cards and communicating the specifics of the change. Therefore, banks should consider this event an opportunity to enhance cardholder engagement and drive increased volume and fee income.

In recent discussions with issuers we’ve found that they’ve been paying less attention to their debit programs, given the changing debit landscape. Many are simply unaware of the size of the growth potential. It’s important to identify the gap to industry leading performance to best understand the attainable incremental increase that can be achieved. By analyzing spending behaviors and engagement levels, issuers can gain deeper understanding of cardholder behavior, enabling them to take actions to improve performance.

The impact of a debit checkup

Debit issuers that engage in debit performance reviews can identify potential improvements and incremental growth opportunities to increase penetration, activation and usage. The recommended approach is to address the opportunity through data analytics, and identifying and addressing process and procedural bottlenecks. Best-in-class debit issuers are focused on operational excellence and driving improvement with select levers:

 penetration Penetration: Is your FI underpenetrated? Do you know how you compare against your peers? If below average, do you know why, and have you taken any improvement actions recently? This is an area where an operational review can help to identify process impediments.
 activation Activation: How many inactive cards are in your portfolio? Has this been increasing or decreasing? Be sure to track cardholders during the first 90 days, and think about onboarding and ongoing actions to take to encourage activation.
 usage Usage: How engaged is your base of cardholders? Look to enhance profitability and volume by getting card holders to use their cards more and build a stronger relationship. Understand the triggers of debit card usage and help consumers discover the value provided in terms of convenience, money management and rewards, if appropriate.


While the financial dynamics of debit cards may not be as attractive as previously for larger banks, best practice issuers are leveraging the EMV migration event to focus on improvement possibilities. Consumers are strongly committed to using their cards, growth continues at approximately 8% annually and the information FIs require for analysis is readily available.

Our debit portfolio optimization services apply customer-focused, data-driven analytics to help financial institutions identify opportunities for increasing debit card penetration, activation, and usage. If you’re interested in learning more; contact me at amandelbaum@westmonroepartners.com.

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Phone: 312-602-4000
Email: marketing@westmonroepartners.com
222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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