Acquisition and Penetration

ICBA Bancard's Automated Card Expert (ACE) gives you the tools you need to run comprehensive financial analyses of your community bank’s credit card portfolio.

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Target Audience:  Millennials (and Generation Z) customers

Millennials are the largest and fastest growing population in the United States. Capture this market by establishing your institution as a credible partner in helping millennial customers build and use credit wisely. Include budgeting capabilities in your mobile apps to reach these customers through their desired channels. 


  • Virtual account numbers

  • Person-to-Person (P2P) payments

  • Mobile payments

  • Provide credit education and credit-building benefits

  • Use a multichannel approach to deliver content, with focus on web and social channels.

  • Develop "bite-sized" and engaging content that can be included in acquisition and account management communications

  • Consider offering customers a full financial picture beyond accounts held with your institution

Generation Zers, much like Millennials, are a rapidly growing generation. However, unlike Millennials, this generation does not know life without the internet. Capturing and retaining their attention in a world where they are dominated by an endless stream of content daily is key. 

Consider these to target Gen Z in addition to what is offered to Millennials: 

  • Have clear communication 

  • Create short, channel appropriate content 

  • Generate credit card and loan applications that can be completed on phones 

    • Remember, this generation is mobile-first 

  • Considering marketing the benefits that both Gen Zers and their parents can share

Target Audience:  Higher Income, well-educated customers 

Throughout today's marketplace, affluent customers appreciate and seek out products that recognize and reward their financial achievements. Higher-income, well-educated cardholder segments represent a high-spending, low-risk opportunity for credit card marketers. A very sound strategy is to focus acquisition marketing efforts on these segments and feature products and offers that provide increased spending limits and more valuable card benefits. 

Consider offering a platinum card. The cards should have benefits such as rewards, upgrades, and preferred access. 

Review the credit limits of the affluent and adjust accordingly. 

Check out the Visa Signature and Signature Preferred cards from Visa and MasterCard World from MasterCard  (login required)

Target Audience:  New Cardholders 

In today’s market, introductory rates have become the norm. Just think of the offers you have received as a consumer over the past week or month. Most are tied to some sort of an introductory or promotional rate.  

Consider these to drive new account acquisition and bring your bank card to top of wallet: 

  • Big banks offer 0% APR for a limited time, however, it is just as effective to position your interest rate to be between 3-5% points less than the lowest rate your bank offers. 

  • The appeal of offering the same intro rate across all card offerings can "sell" the potential new cardholder. 

  • Most intro rates last between 6-18 months and cover all purchases and cash advances.  Once the introductory time period ends, the balances revert to the standard rate. 

Consider the following before implementing an introductory rate promotion: 

  • Will this be an ongoing promotion of a one-time offer? 

  • How will you address potential questions from existing cardholders also wanting to benefit from the intro rate?

Target Audience:  New and existing customers 

Entice customers to accept your card and ensure that your bank is their primary financial institution. 


  • Extend package or reduced pricing for cardholders who utilize multiple bank products and services. 

  • Offer no fee on checking accounts or free overdraft protection to customers who accept your card 

  • Offer discounted auto loan rates for new cardholders who immediately activate their cards using a balance transfer 

  • Create a VIP cardholder program for customers who use other bank products and services.  Extend qualified VIP customers your lowest rate and most prestigious card

Target Audience:  New and existing customers 

Market you credit program by maximizing your lines of communication to build relationships, stimulate customer interest in your card offering and create a positive first impression of your program. Utilize in-branch marketing and recruit your "front line" to help strengthen your card program and relationships with customers. 

Best Practices: 

Advertise card rates and promotions prominently including in your lobby, website, statements, outside advertising, ATM and newsletter. 

  • Lobby - Encourage your customers to apply using easy-to-read posters in view of all “waiting lines”. Repeat the message on staff lapel stickers or buttons. Don’t forget to also put applications and take-ones in your lobby. 

  • Website - Offer a mini-application online. Remember, many customers are viewing your website on the go. Make sure your website and applications are mobile-friendly. 

  • Outside advertising (radio, TV, billboards) - Keep it simple. Increase awareness by increasing frequency instead of size or length of ad. Don't forget about low-cost advertising options such as press releases or "take-one" stands at locations frequently visited by potential cardholders. 

  • ATM - Display teaser messages such as "Why pay more? Ask about our credit card rates!" 

  • Newsletter - Feature your card program in your newsletter every month, not just during promotional periods. Also, try using Customer Testimonials. 

  • Word of Mouth - Happy cardholders can be a very effective sales force. Encourage existing customers to spread the word about your card offerings to others. Offer a credit toward their card balance for every new cardholder they refer. 

  • VISA and MasterCard Promotions - Leverage VISA and MasterCard’s marketing campaigns. Often promotional materials (including Web tools, cardholder messages and statement inserts) are available for no charge. See your Update bulletins from ICBA Bancard that announce insert opportunities.


Utilize in-branch marketing to get bank cards in your members' wallets. 

In-branch marketing is very cost effective. Plus, it targets some of your best card prospects -- current customers. After all, you already know a great deal about your customers' credit worthiness and propensity for using credit.  

Best Practices: 

  • The key to effective in-branch marketing programs is a staff that is trained to recognize prospects and present your bank's VISA/MasterCard's benefits. It also helps to motivate branch employees with incentives and recognition for their efforts to cross-sell credit cards.
  • Make it your goal for every customer or potential customer who visits your bank to learn that you issue a credit card.
  • Leverage as many in-branch marketing vehicles as possible:
    • Badges for tellers to wear - remember they are inexpensive and get your message across quickly
    • Tent card for counters and desktops
    • Lobby and ATM posters
    • Banners
    • Take one displays with applications
  • Don't be caught short on marketing materials. Make sure you establish a time to take inventory and re-order if necessary:
  • Keep records of the number of items used during promotion and non-promotion periods in order to accurately estimate your re-order needs.

Target Audience:   New and existing customers 

Cross-selling is the practice of marketing additional products to existing customers which can increase your revenue.  

Analyze your operations and identify opportunities for cross-selling. Set realistic and attainable goals, including time frame and how it correlates to your bank's overall marketing plan. Introduce cross-selling strategy and goals to staff and train them on cross-selling techniques.

A well-trained staff is a bank's best sales strategy. Therefore, make certain the staff understands all of the features and benefits of all card products. Lastly, track the card program closely to monitor its growth and determine the effectiveness of your efforts. 

Best Practices: 

  • When approving customers for loans, especially home or auto loans, see if they also qualify for your card and introduce them to your offering. 

  • Train staff to review account information when assisting customers to identify potential new cardholders. 

  • Research which cards your customers carry by reviewing credit reports you have on file. Evaluate their card needs and extend offers based on your findings. 

Enhance relationships with new customers who qualify for your card by sending a welcome letter that includes a pre-approval. 

  • After cross-selling your bank's credit card, don't scare away your new potential cardholder with a lengthy card application. Simplify the questions asked, making sure not to ask customers for information you already may have on file. 

  • Integrate the application process. Include the card application in the same package as the DDA account or mortgage loan application, and you'll increase card applications. 

  • Make products appear to "work together." Position the card as a credit line maintenance tool or loan consolidation device. 

  • Relationship pricing drives card sales. Offering a special low introductory rate or reduced fees for multiple-product members can be very effective for introducing your card into the sales discussion and providing member recognition.

Target Audience:  New and existing customers 

Direct mail has been around a very long time, but we are now in a digital world where direct mail has seen a decline. However, don't be fooled, direct mail still works.

Younger generations are constantly bombarded with digital messages and have become adept at ignoring digital ads. Direct mail is a tangible and subtle way to build brand awareness and lends credibility to your institution.   

Deliver your sales message to a very specific market segment and easily quantify the sales results. 

How to successfully implement a direct mail program: 

  • Determine your target market--decide who should receive an application. 

  • Verify the name spellings and address on your mailing list. 

  • Screen your mailing list and review credit history to identify the best candidates. 

  • Order applications and self-addressed return envelopes. 

  • Produce personalized cover letters for your direct mail recipients. Avoid the junk mail look. Highlight the most desired customer benefits. For best response rates, format solicitations with the application at the top of the letter instead of at the bottom. 

  • Educate your staff about the campaign. 

  • Recommended action -- call your direct mail prospects to let them know an application is forthcoming. 

  • Mail your direct mail package. 

  • Recommended action -- follow-up with your direct mail recipients with reminder postcards, or phone calls to see if they have any questions about your program. 

  • Monitor your results (response rate and approval rate). 

  • Analyze profitability of the direct mail program 

Best Practices: 

  • Before initiating a direct mail campaign, carefully consider all costs involved 

    • Paper and printing 

    • Postage 

    • Administrative coordination 

    • Pre-screening 

  • Target your message 

    • Sell benefits, not features 

    • Focus attention on what the reader (your customer) wants NOT what you want to sell them 

    • Make the message clear, concise, and simple 

  • Make it easy for prospect to respond. The less the respondent has to fill out, the more likely the response 

    • If possible, pre-print the respondent's name, address, etc. 

    • Be sure to pay for postage on the reply card 

    • Include a number and email as additional options for response. 

Pair direct mail with your digital marketing efforts to really bolster your results.