As with many inventions in modern society, credit cards are evolving rapidly. Once deemed an emergency tool only, the credit card has become so much more than that; used wisely, credit cards can be secure and convenient methods of payment that offer valuable rewards to the consumer.
“The credit card industry is one of the most competitive in the world, and card issuers go to great lengths to retain existing customers while convincing new customers to join and experience the convenience of a credit card – so much so that they are forever looking for new and unique ways to increase their value offering. So, apart from taking advantage of the standard benefits of using a credit card (including up to 55-days interest free credit) there has never been a better time to acquire this type of revolving credit,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head of Card Issuing at Standard Bank.
Below are just a few current trends that were designed to work in the consumer’s favour:
New ‘cash back’ card innovations
Cardholders who use reward cards earn valuable points, frequent-flyer miles at some banks, or cash back for the purchases they would have made anyway. Those who earn cash back – or in the case of Standard Bank, Ucount Rewards points – are realising helpful discounts on purchases, whether in the form of actual cash, or in points that can be exchanged for discounts, flight miles and other rewards.
Competition is tight among financial institutions to offer their customers the very best in rewards and loyalty benefits, and credit card holders are urged to do their homework, keep abreast of changes to their bank’s rewards programme, and make sure they are optimising all the benefits available to them.
Increase of secure mobile payment solutions
Standard Bank’s SnapScan and Snap Beacons are two such innovations. With more consumers and vendors making and receiving payments using their cellphones, the SnapScan series of payment solutions allow customers to pay at SnapScan-enabled merchants by simply scanning a payment code. SnapBeacon lets customers do the same, but in a more convenient way, as no codes need to be scanned. By using Bluetooth technology, merchant beacons detect where customers are and invite them to “pay here” for goods or services.
Innovative chip card communications and security features
To avoid long queues, all cheque and credit card account holders can use Standard Bank’s Tap to Pay payment solution. All that is required is a simple tap of their credit card within 5cm of the terminal at the point-of-sale (POS). Easy and secure, your card never leaves your hand, making it the ultimate in safe payment solutions. And if your card is stolen, the holder cannot tap for any amount over R500 without your PIN, giving you time to cancel your card with minimal risk of financial loss. “In addition, to mitigate the risk of any transactions on your account without your knowledge, Standard Bank offers MyUpdates – a free service that alerts you via SMS and emails of all activities on your account, enabling you to identify and report any transactions that may be suspicious or that you didn’t authorise,” says Nyembe.
Newly designed websites, apps and services
Banking customers are among some of the most tech-savvy, and, as such, are ever in search of new, fast and convenient ways to conduct their day-to-day banking. Standard Bank recognises this, and – as one example among many – offers the latest in credit card functionality on its web and mobile banking app. The update has reimagined the way customers use credit cards and aims to convert the app into a remote control for cards. Via the mobile banking app, clients can now activate their bank cards for use during international travel, toggle cards on or off, stop cards in case of loss or theft, order new cards, and manage ATM limits.
Peace of mind
One of the less appreciated benefits of a credit card is that consumers are protected when a merchant fails to deliver goods or services paid for, or if what you received was not what was promised. To get your money back, you simply have to contact your credit card issuer and request a chargeback. A temporary credit for the amount in dispute is immediately received, and it becomes permanent once the card issuer has researched and substantiated your claim.
For example, if you paid for a product that never arrived by mail, you would receive a full refund. Or, if you purchase a service for one year, and the service provider goes out of business after a few months, you would receive a pro-rated refund for the service you didn’t receive.
“Not too long ago, credit cards were seen as a dangerous, but at times ‘necessary evil’ whose overuse could lead their owners down the road to over-indebtedness and financial ruin. This inaccurate view is fast being dispelled as it becomes obvious that credit cards are not only a fast, convenient, and secure, payment method, but also an effective financial management tool,” says Nyembe.