7 lessons from new credit card launches during the pandemic

July 26th, 2021 | Andrew Davidson

Innovation thrives in a crisis. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (around March 2020 in the US), more than 40 new credit cards have been launched across a range of segments from both established players and new entrants. While some banks were understandably hesitant or put plans for new cards on hold, others pushed forward in anticipation of a future recovery that is now beginning to take hold as more Americans get vaccinated.

What are the emerging themes and innovations that will shape the future of credit card marketing? The pace of innovation looks set to continue and a look back at new card launches over the past 15 months provides the clues to how the credit card landscape will be reframed in the months ahead.

Here are topline details on four of the seven things marketers can learn from new credit card launches during the pandemic. For all seven lessons, more in-depth details and analysis, including brand examples and recommendations for what to do next, download the free video here.

#1: Test and learn

Since the launch of the Apple Card in 2019, pre-launch card marketing has become an increasingly popular component of new card launch strategy. Marketers are finding innovative new ways to engage with potential applicants well in advance of their planned launch dates. New entrants are coming up with creative approaches for email waitlists and some card issuers have taken it to another level with limited launches that allow them to adapt the product or change the message by observing actual behavior among a select group of customers.

#2: Amplify digital

All things digital have been amplified by the pandemic and new card launches have capitalized on the digital momentum by leveraging digital marketing, encouraging mobile applications, promoting contactless payments, and incorporating digital tools. As a result, the digital experience is being elevated as a key benefit in marketing messages.

#3: Look for emerging opportunities

As consumer spending recovers, opportunities are emerging to meet changing consumer needs. Many consumers will be looking to make up for missing out last year and the potential pent-up demand that could be unleashed on the economy will likely lead to a period of volatility in spending that won’t normalize for some time. In the meantime, new pockets of opportunity for credit cards are emerging – from pet care to healthcare – as consumer behaviors shift while some aspects of the pandemic endure.

#4: Find your identity

During the pandemic, many card issuers pivoted to capture everyday spend in categories such as groceries or streaming. The result was a blurring of the lines between traditional industry segments like travel and cash back, with some cash back cards offering accelerated earn on travel and many travel cards offering accelerated earn on groceries. As we move into an intensely competitive environment it will be more important than ever to promote products with a clear identity and to return to lifestyle marketing to reach consumers in a more targeted way.

Final thoughts

It’s game-on for credit cards as consumer spending increases and card issuers look to make up lost ground. Many are leaning into new customer acquisition and post-pandemic opportunities will fuel a wave of product innovation. In the coming months, the battle lines will be redrawn setting the stage for a period of intense competitive activity. Check out my full insights and recommendations by downloading the video.

Andrew Davidson

Andrew Davidson

Andrew Davidson is SVP, Chief Insights Officer for Comperemedia, an expert in consumer and marketing intelligence.