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A Pointless Credit Card World (Sound the Alarm, Ring the Bell, Freak Out… Le Freak, see'est Chic)

aci worldwide payments trends blog

Mark, we were slightly prescient a few weeks back when our rantings touched on credit card points. Based on some news over the past weeks related to rewards, perks and sweet deals, do I now sound the alarm or do I stand down?

Mark Ranta: It’s certainly not ‘freak-out’ time; this is a slow evolution, not an overnight revolution, but it’s always nice to see we aren’t entirely crazy...

Dan Ring: That’s good… because I prefer evolutions like I prefer BBQ, low and slow.

MR: Memphis ribs, mmmmm!!

DR: And I think banks prefer evolutions and BBQ similarly, right?

MR: Of course they do… when you are talking about multi-million dollar to billion-dollar tech investments, speed is not something you hope for, though I think everyone wants to get to the tasty endpoint as fast as they physically can!

DR: So what card do you plan to use when buying gifts for your daughter, whose birthday is a mere three weeks away?

MR: You’re playing by Amara’s Law again, Dan—overestimating the short-term while underestimating the long-term. The answer to your question is: the one that gives me the most points, which is the card in my wallet today. That answer most likely changes, however, when you look to the 1-3 year horizon.

DR: What will change at that time?

MR: The discussion will almost certainly include a mobile-based payment option, potentially underpinned by an immediate payment. The big question consumers will ask is: who’s offering the most or highest “reward to me?” The reality is that the general points scheme today is broad-based (i.e. 3x points on dining, 5x points on gas) and will likely be replaced by loyalty and cash-back offers driven by – or tailored for – the individual via their mobile device.

DR: We’re starting to see this today. So this will be pushed further up the experience?

MR: Exactly, today it is almost always a secondary feature you have to search for within an app or on your card’s website. I can envision a future where this is at the forefront of the experience and quite frankly driving the payment instrument you choose to use at the point of checkout. We used to call this the “top of wallet” positioning, but it’s more than that; it’s Top of Wallet meets AI meets Immediate payments… it’s like Memphis BBQ merged with Coastal Carolina BBQ melted on Texas BBQ…

DR: That’s a deliciously impressive combo platter. I think I smell a road trip—first stop, Rendezvous in Memphis; second stop, Franklin BBQ in Austin; third stop, a gym.