Tune Your Credit Union’s Credit Cards to the Sound of Holiday Cheer


Barring a surprise cure or vaccine for coronavirus, the holidays will look much different than they have in the past. For starters, fewer and smaller gatherings will be held, and gift shopping will move even more online. Some stores that are open are not even accepting cash as it can be a carrier of the nasty virus, which means consumers are turning to cards.

Retails sales are returning as more sectors re-open for business. According to Kiplinger, the U.S. should end the year 6% higher than we started. Total consumer sales are near or above pre-coronavirus spending, although expanded government assistance programs are credited with some of that success. Kiplinger reported the largest sales increase in July was in electronics and appliances stores. It looks like consumer electronics will be key this holiday season, and that means it’s also critical information for your credit union’s credit card rewards, marketing and usage.

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For right now, consumers are paying down debt and using their debit cards more, however, the extra spending for the holidays with shift their spending more toward credit. And timing is more critical than ever, which means credit card programs must be on point and primed for ecommerce and your membership. Here’s why:

  • Amazon Prime Day will be more critical then ever. Typically, it would run in July, but now the rumor mill has it taking place Oct. 5-9, according to Digital Trends. The online savings craze usually lasts 48 hours, and Amazon sold more during this time last year than on Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined.
  • Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28, encourages consumers to focus their spending at small business, which need the support now more than ever. The AmEx-inspired event generated $19.6 billion in sales last year and greater promotion is expected this year, according to PYMNTS.com.
  • Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, is a modern tradition for pushing ecommerce sales that will take off significantly this year due to additional promotion and sales as brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to find their financial footing in the coronavirus world. PYMNTS reported Cyber Monday took in $9.2 billion in 2019, and Goldman Sachs has reforecast for a 19% boost in the whole of 2020.
  • Due to coronavirus-related delays in shipping and items being out of stock as supply chains get themselves sorted out, holiday shoppers will likely start earlier than usual.
  • Increased shipping fees and greater use of shipping companies overall may dampen gift spending to compensate, but buyers are still using the card to pay for it.


Credit unions must respond swiftly and decisively. Start by having the right products for your members. Now is a prime time to review your rewards programs. Rewards have always been a big driver of consumers’ top-of-wallet credit card choice – including digital wallets. Cash is always king – so to speak – when it comes to rewards, even if members don’t actually get nor want to touch it physically right now.

“Portfolios that have reward-travel based rewards are probably struggling a little bit right now, given that we're all at home or reduced travel,” PSCU Vice President of Innovation Scott Young explained during Ser Tech’s recent LIVE webcast. “So, right now we're seeing in rewards redemption, people are reverting to liquidating their points for gift cards and cash-like products right now.” Now is definitely for credit unions to optimize rewards programs.

Did you miss Ser Tech LIVE? View the full recording here to get a complete picture of your credit union’s opportunities in 2020!

And for those purchases cardholders prefer to make in-store when they can, contactless cards are experiencing a huge surge and crucial piece of credit unions’ digital strategy to retain a preferred card and financial institution status. More than half (51%) of consumers are using contactless cards right now, according to PaymentsJournal, and 45% of consumers prefer to shop at a store that allows contactless point-of-sale. Overall, contactless usage is up 150% from March 2019, and that will only continue to grow as the coronavirus wages on.

Demonstrating you understand your members’ plight and offering assistance with great credit card deals will help your credit union’s credit card promotional offers tremendously. According to Footwear News, 75% of consumers are particularly focused price when determining purchases, and 32% said they plan to spend less than in prior holiday seasons. Millennials and Gen Z (39%), however, said they would increase spending if interest-free installments were available. Empathy combined with the right offers – such as Prime Day deals and electronics-buying based rewards – can be a home run for your credit union’s card portfolio this holiday season.

PSCU Vice President of Industry Engagement Andrea Rusnak pointed out during Ser Tech LIVE, “We just need to be empathetic and realize that everyone's going through something different. Right now there's a lot of social unrest, so make sure your marketing messages are tailored to what you want to present to your market and your membership.” The same goes for coronavirus-related anxiety, she continued, and your credit union’s messaging must be authentic to its brand and helping the community.

When communicating with members, offer useful, actionable advice. Good content marketing provides educational materials aligned with your business purpose, so providing financial education materials is a must. Whether online, in print or – hopefully soon – in person, offer guidance on wise use of credit and tips for creating a realistic budget. Giving your members information that will help them improve their lives will help your credit union earn the position of their trusted financial adviser.

Credit unions are often shy about promoting the good work in they do to support their communities, but this is a huge mistake. Footwear News pointed out that 81% of consumers believe it’s important for brands to give back, which fosters trust and generates a feeling of goodwill – imperative during the holidays particularly – so amplify your message and brand with all your good deeds year round.

Consumers are also more inclined to heed personal recommendations, Footwear News added, so referral programs, shareable offers and social media shopping will be key to your credit card programs. Net Imperative reported that 54% of retailers said they’ll be investing more in social media and social commerce as consumers are home more, scrolling through their social media feeds.

Don’t neglect post-holiday balance transfer opportunities, too. Give those you may have missed something to switch to your credit union for with low initial rates and no- or low-transfer fees.

Ensure your credit union’s front-line team members are trained up on sales-service methods and what you’re offering, so they’re prepared when members grouse about their other cards. Credit unions are typically a great deal with much lower interest and fewer and less-expensive fees than their for-profit brethren. Take advantage of your not-for-profit strengths!

With your strategy, products and staff aligned, you’re ready to begin pushing the offer to your members. Use creative subject lines to let members know you’re in the business of serving them. Write something clever enough to grab their attention yet not tone deaf to the times. Personalize your postcards, letters and emails, because OutboundEngine reports that personalized emails earn a 29% higher open rate? Finally, save time and money with Ser Tech’s target marketing automation tools.