Personalization Drives Card Industry Trends for 2019

As consumers get more sophisticated and used to more customization in their daily lives, they are starting to expect the same level of personalization across all the products they use. Responding to customer demand, issuers are looking to their card manufacturing and personalizing partners for new personalization options.

With competition to stay “top-of-wallet” growing more intense, card issuers are looking for new ways to enhance their relationships with cardholders. These new personalization techniques range from unique-to-the-cardholder designs to entirely rethinking card layouts to accommodate changing consumer behavior.

Customers have always enjoyed customized cards and this trend will only continue to grow as people use products to signal identity. In this way, the card becomes an extension of the person and builds a stronger relationship with the issuing brand.

Whether it’s a school or sports team logo, a user-submitted photo, or another brand interest, issuers are offering more options to consumers to completely customize their cards. In particular, affinity card and co-branded card issuers are leveraging print-on-demand technology to allow for greater personalization.

For issuers, personalization also includes redesigning card layouts for easier use by consumers. For example, as online shopping continues to take a bite out of bricks-and-mortar retail, several issuers have changed their cards’ appearance to make online shopping easier.

Visa’s “Quick Read” card reimagined account number placement by swapping the familiar line of embossed digits with four stacked lines of four digits each for easier readability. Below the card number, Visa placed the card’s expiration date and security code. With this design, the cardholder can make an online transaction with the card in their hand and never have to flip it over for the CVV2. Other issuers have put all the card information on the back of the card, to also avoid flipping the card during a transaction.

Interest in personalization isn’t limited to just the end-users: banks and other issuers are looking for individualized solutions too. The peel-off, “1-800 number” label that users call to activate a card is the most read piece of real estate on a card. The advantages of blank white labels printed on demand include cross-selling space on this “real estate” to another business line in a bank.

“Banks are looking for alternatives to the pre-printed 1-800 number labels,” said Alyssa Arredondo, director of financial vertical marketing at ICMA member, Entrust Datacard.  “They want labels that can be used for other purposes.”

Arredondo sees a similar trend with card carriers: “With pre-printed carriers, the messaging could be dynamic, but it was usually very generic. Starting with a blank canvas, the messaging becomes very customized, engaging and personal.”

Facilitating these personalizations are printing techniques like digital printing and retransfer printing. Traditional printing presses are quite good, but they do have limitations with producing personalized cards quickly and cheaply. Digital printing cuts out several production steps that litho and screen printing require, increasing speed to market, as well as saving time and money on materials.

The industry is likely to see a reduction in card job sizes as issuers offer more personalization options to their customer base as they look to increase customer loyalty. Digital printing facilitates this commensurate rise in smaller card batches—even allowing cards printed on sheets to have different card images printed on them. This on-demand printing can produce these cards efficiently in small quantities that were not possible using large-scale litho or screen printers. The latest generation of digital printers can print up to 48 cards per sheet.

The impact of print-on-demand on issuers is minimal in terms of both speed and cost, which means card marketers can offer prospective customers the ability to make each credit and debit card truly theirs. This helps issuers achieve product differentiation, attract new cardholders and deepen customer loyalty and improve key performance metrics.

“For financial institutions with smaller card portfolios, using retransfer technology to print cards as needed, versus in bulk, helps reduce how much pre-printed card stock is destroyed due to expired chips or obsolete branding,” Arredondo said. “It allows banks and credit unions to offer as many card designs as they wish, without having to worry about inventory management and card destruction costs. In my own experience working for a large bank, a co-branded partner changed their branding, which meant we had to destroy all the inventory of pre-printed carriers, labels and cards. That is no longer a concern with print-on-demand.”

While cost will always be a key driver of the card manufacturing and personalization processes, making the card now more personal is becoming equally important as issuer competition increases.


Want more industry insider insights or a glimpse into global card trends?

For three decades, ICMA has represented the interests of the card manufacturing industry—which includes manufacturers, personalizers, issuers and suppliers—as its leading global association.

ICMA maintains several industry-leading training and education programs about card manufacturing for members. These include the Advanced Card Education (ACE) designation and the web-based Card Industry Training & Education (CITE) programs, which provide information on key areas of the industry, as well as online tutorials and webinars on specific topics from card industry experts and leading industry suppliers.

ICMA also provides regular industry reports to keep members informed of emerging trends and changing standards, including Global, European and North America Card Market and Personalization and Fulfillment Statistics Reports each year.

The organization hosts three conferences each year. The main event is the Annual Card Manufacturing & Personalization EXPO and the other two conferences are CardTREX North America and CardTREX Europe.


To learn more about the benefits of ICMA membership, click here.