Financial institutions are competing for both the acquisition and retention of cardholders and loyalty programs are one of the most popular tactics being deployed by many banks and credit unions to stand out. If loyalty rewards is one of the strategies your financial institution is leveraging, delivering a positive rewards redemption experience that aligns with modern consumers’ digital expectations is key to building brand loyalty and long-term relationships with your cardholders. Today’s cardholder wants freedom of choice and an easy and quick redemption experience. Deliver on this aspect, and you will improve the likelihood that your cardholders will stay engaged and explore other services your financial institution offers. 

Redemption experience

At their core, loyalty and rewards programs are designed to incentivize behavior. They are built on the idea that positive reinforcement will encourage cardholders to repeat rewarded behaviors, and for financial institutions, this means repeat purchases with their rewards debit and/or credit card. A well-designed and executed loyalty program can create a life-long cardholder, or it can end the relationship and run the risk of negative word-of-mouth. Our loyalty experts explore three key ways to deliver a redemption experience that will make your consumers cardholders for life.  

Offer Real-Time Rewards

The fastest and easiest way to redeem is to use rewards without the inconvenience of logging into a dedicated rewards website. Real-time rewards are the simplest redemption category in the market currently, and they provide cardholders with immediacy and relevancy. Depending on the program, real-time rewards either prompt the cardholder on the POS system directly and convert their points into a discount at checkout, or they send the cardholder an email or text message asking if they would like to use their points right after the sale to receive a statement credit for their purchase. Discounts and statement credits are delivered to cardholders on recently purchased items, offering an unprecedented, customized redemption experience. It also reminds the consumer of their relationship with your financial institution and builds loyalty, all while creating a redemption loop encouraging card usage to earn points so they can use those points in cash-like ways.

Digital Integrations

Cardholders are more likely to engage with your loyalty program if your financial institution uses modern technology and integrations to deliver seamless access. However, according to, many leading credit unions are struggling to deliver digital experiences that align with cardholder demands. “Based on analysis of the Top 100 credit unions, the average user experience score comes in at 2.31 out of 5.” Taking advantage of the opportunity to use single sign-on (SSO) with your loyalty provider to improve access to the rewards site. SSO also adds security and builds trust as the integration and consistent branding safe navigation to the cardholder. Utilize mobile app integrations if possible to make accessing your financial institution and loyalty program easy for on-the-go cardholders. Finally, make sure your financial institution allows integration with digital wallets. Digital wallet access makes online and in-store transactions easier, drives top-of-wallet status, and delivers a convenient and seamless experience to cardholders.

Offer Several Redemption Options

According to Wise Marketer, in many cases, the value of the loyalty program is defined more often by the variety of rewards available not the actual value of the offers delivered. It is difficult to please everyone. Your cardholder demographics likely represent different ages, genders, geographical locations, and more. 

One of the best ways to ensure your cardholders find value in your loyalty program’s redemption offerings is to offer a variety of choices in your redemption catalog. Offering a mix of classic rewards (cash back, gift cards, travel, event tickets, and merchandise), real-time rewards, and wealth rewards like cryptocurrency or stock ensures there is a redemption option of interest for everyone.

Financial institutions can improve their ability to compete in the acquisition and retention of cardholders by designing their loyalty programs to deliver positive experiences that incentivize the use of their debit or credit rewards card and engage with the rewards program. A well-designed and executed loyalty program can deliver a surprise and delight experience to your cardholders and create life-long relationships. 

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