Whether you trust a card brand can influence which card you pull from your wallet for a purchase or which cards you apply for.
This trust is at the center of an April 2017 Consumer Card Brand Sentiment Survey from payments-consulting company The Strawhecker Group. It reveals some fascinating insights into how consumers feel about their cards and whether they’re willing to extend that trust even further by adopting mobile wallets.
The survey, conducted between March 29, 2016, and April 3, 2016, asked 925 consumers over the age of 18 various questions about brand trust and reputation, as well as card and mobile wallet use. To be selected for the survey, participants had to have internet access as well as at least one Visa, MasterCard, American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) or Discover credit/debit card.
Visa deemed most trustworthy
Visa is the winner by far, when it comes to consumer trust and reputation, with more than half (54 percent) of consumers deeming it most trustworthy and just under half (45 percent) saying it had the best reputation.
It’s not a huge surprise to see Visa at the top, says Jared Drieling director of business intelligence for The Strawhecker Group, given that it has a largest market share in the U.S. by far. Per the latest operational performance data from the card networks, there are more than twice as many Visa cards in circulation in the U.S. as MasterCard cards. There are more than 14 times as many Visa cards as there are American Express cards.
What was surprising, Drieling says, is that MasterCard, second place in card circulation, didn’t take second place in trustworthiness and reputation.
“Typically you’re thinking Visa at the top, followed by MasterCard, followed by Discover or AmEx,” he says. “Our results went another direction, where it was very much Visa viewed as most secure and trusted and, in second place, American Express.”
In fact, American Express wasn’t far behind Visa when it came to reputation (36 percent said AmEx has the best reputation, vs. 45 percent for Visa).
Drieling suspects that this surprising second-place finish for American Express is partly due to its aggressive marketing toward Millennials.
“Typically when you think of AmEx, you’re thinking of a higher-income demographic, typically older,” Drielig says. “But I think they’re clearly making significant headway in terms of their brand perception among younger generations.”
For example, American Express has been heavily pushing its “personalized, integrated” reward programs. Its recent decision to include Uber credits among the perks on its Platinum Card was also “clearly a marketing play on younger generations,” Drieling says, as are improvements it’s been making to its mobile site to make card applications more Millennial-friendly.
As for Discover and MasterCard, they may lag behind due to their lower market share (compared to Visa) and not overcoming it with the kind of aggressive marketing American Express is doing.
PayPal “winning” the least trustworthy category may stem from the fact that many consumers automatically trust an online payment provider less than a physical card they can hold in their hands, Drieling says.
“I think that skewed the results for PayPal,” Drieling says. “I think it would have been a bit different if we looked at online payments only.”
Consumers don’t feel emotional connected to their credit cards
While consumers strongly felt that Visa was the most secure and had the best reputation, they did not have an emotional connection to it or any of the other card brands.
This graphic shows the response to the question, “Do you have an emotional connection to any of these brands?”:
While consumers have emotional connections to many brands they use in their day-to-day lives (Google, Apple, the brand of car they drive), cards seem to mostly be seen as tools that can be replaced if a better one is found.
“So if you’re Discover, MasterCard, American Express, if you’re able to raise your marketing visibility around trust and security, Visa cardholders aren’t emotionally connected to that brand, and they will switch,” Drieling says. “They’ll find another card.”
Mobile wallets pit convenience against trust
The survey also tackled one of the most-asked questions in the digital-payments age: Why old-fashioned plastic is still preferred over speedier mobile wallets.
Nearly all (87 percent) of survey participants felt physical cards were a better payment method than mobile wallet smartphone apps. But, when the two camps (pro-card and pro-mobile) were broken down, the results were revealing.
Those who selected plastic as the better payment method cited “security” as their top reason for saying so. Those who selected mobile wallets as the better payment method cited “convenience” and “speed of use” as their top justifications. Arguably, mobile wallets are just as secure as physical cards (due to their use of card-masking tokenization technology), but consumers may find security in the familiar (plastic) instead of the new (mobile wallets).
That doesn’t necessarily mean mobile wallets need to convince consumers of their safety to flourish. Generational shift may take care of the issue instead.
“The younger generations lean more towards convenience and are less concerned about the trust issue,” Drieling says. “So these are very interesting results from a demographics perspective.”
For now, though, most consumers have never used mobile payments in store:
Those who have are more likely to have made use of the Starbucks payment app and Apple Pay.
“What we’re clearly seeing, no big surprise, is that Apple Pay and Starbucks are leading the pack,” Drieling says. “What was interesting is we’re seeing traction with others as well – Android Pay and Samsung Pay.”