Rewards on Prepaid

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19 May 2011
Zilvinas Bareisis
We are all familiar with loyalty points and other types of rewards we get on credit cards. The economics (i.e. relatively higher interchange, opportunity to earn interest fees, etc.) and the stand-alone product nature (i.e. not linked to a current account) meant that many credit card issuers used to look for additional ways to stand out from the crowd to acquire customers. With economics deteriorating in recent years, the credit card rewards programmes are getting less generous, changing shape, or disappearing altogether - a subject I am looking at in more detail in my research at the moment. Those in the US are also very used to getting rewards on debit cards, something which doesn't really exist yet in the UK. Again, it is yet to be seen where debit rewards will end-up given the Durbin regulation, but the early signs are that the shape of those is changing as well - some issuers are taking away debit rewards and others are looking for other ways to deliver them and are turning to providers such as Cardlytics for merchant-funded rewards. Then Orange in the UK announced in February this year that they are launching 'Orange Cash', "the UK's first major contactless prepaid card". In addition to regular payment features, the card allows "Orange Cash customers to earn points as they spend, which are redeemable against a range of rewards including Pay As You Go Orange texts, airtime, credit or Orange shop vouchers". I believe it must one of the first examples of rewards on a prepaid card. Which actually makes sense - a prepaid card is also a standalone product that the customer needs to buy, so rewards can help differentiate it. And with various fees and interchange exempt from regulation (at least for now), the economics might look more attractive than many debit cards. As an "issuer", Orange is also taking a relationship perspective and the rewards are designed to engender loyalty not just to the prepaid card, but also to the mobile network, still a primary relationship between Orange and most of its customers. This card is interesting from two other perspectives: a) It's a prepaid contactless card. I've always maintained that contactless technology is most suited for prepaid wallets (from use case, not technology point of view) - given it's "tap and go" nature, I would much rather expose my prepaid account which has limited funds than, say, my current account. b) It's a stepping stone for Orange towards mobile payments. It gets their customers used to contactless and prepaid wallet concepts, both of which will be necessary when launching NFC-based mobile payments where Orange have strong ambitions. Now, if only someone could solve the contactless acceptance challenge...

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