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Strong Rewards for Sign-up and Ongoing Spend Are Table Stakes for Co-Brand Cards

(New York, NY) Co-brand credit cards connect cardholder spending to exclusive benefits and rewards at their favorite brands. The fierce competition to capture everyday spend and increase cardholder acquisitions continues to push brands, issuers, and networks to evaluate which value propositions resonate best. Auriemma Group’s latest issue of Cardbeat US found that rewards—points, miles, or cash back for applying and for ongoing spend—are the top driver of card acquisition and usage.

The challenge for brands, issuers, and networks is crafting a compelling value proposition that optimizes their objectives and delivers a product that resonates with customer enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace. The card program’s benefits and rewards must be differentiated enough to speak to a brand’s unique customer base, while valuable enough to rival the competition, which includes proprietary bank cards in addition to other co-brand cards.

Auriemma Group’s latest issue of Cardbeat US determines the drivers of value proposition success by asking existing co-brand cardholders to compare potential co-brand rewards and benefits. Surveying opinions on the relative value of rewards, card design, tolerance for annual fees, and more, the issue confirms that card rewards are the primary driver of co-brand card success.

46% of co-brand credit cardholders indicated that their desire to earn ongoing points, miles, or cashback rewards for spend would motivate them to apply for a co-brand credit card, more than any other single factor across all types of co-brand cards (e.g., airline, hotel, retail). Attractive sign-up offers also play a role–29% of cardholders say they would motivate them to apply for a co-brand, the second-most cited factor.

And when considering potential motivators for increasing co-brand spend outside the partner brand, roughly eight-in-ten co-brand cardholders say their co-brand delivering double points for online (82%), grocery (81%), and/or restaurant purchases (77%) increases their likelihood to use it.

“Card acquisitions are powered by attractive sign-up offers and strong ongoing rewards,” says Gary Rezak, Managing Director at Auriemma Group. “Then the value of the rewards and benefits, as well as the cardholder’s ongoing relationship to the brand, continue to engage cardholders and unlock the programs’ full potential.”

In addition to rewards value, brand affinity is a significant driver of cardholder engagement, especially for retail co-brand cards. 34% of retail co-brand cardholders cite frequent purchases at the brand as their reason for applying. And hotel co-brand cardholders have their own unique motivations, with improving loyalty status as an especially powerful motivator of ongoing engagement for that category. While other co-brand card characteristics, such as the card’s design or APR, should be thoughtfully considered, far fewer cardholders say these factors have a major impact on their card usage.

“Many value proposition elements make an incremental difference in the success of a co-brand and cannot be ignored, but strong rewards value is a must,” says Rezak, “a co-brand without valuable sign-up and ongoing rewards risks never getting a prospective applicant’s consideration in the first place.”

To get full access to this special co-brand issue of Cardbeat, Auriemma’s syndicated research publication studying the debit and credit card industry, or to discuss a custom research study on cards and payments topics, contact Jaclyn Holmes, Director, Auriemma Research.

For assistance assessing, evaluating, finding partners, and negotiating your co-brand and private label partnership, contact Gary Rezak, Managing Director, Auriemma Group.

Survey Methodology

Cardbeat US

This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the US by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma Group (Auriemma) in June 2023 among 1600 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed for both is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing among sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ±5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed, nor did respondents know the criteria for qualifying.

About Auriemma Group

For more than 35 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognized experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships, and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise, and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximize their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in New York City and London.

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