Credit Card Issuers Can’t Wait a Lifetime to Show Gen Z Value

The best way to establish a lifetime-value banking relationship is by engaging young adult consumers.

And the best way to engage those members of today’s younger generational cohorts is by providing the digital-first experience they’ve increasingly come to expect.

That’s according to Matt Good, senior vice president and director of regional partnerships at Elan Credit Card.

“Digital capabilities are absolutely a demand of Gen Z and millennials — that the credit card product be a frictionless, seamless experience,” Good said.

A 25-year veteran of the financial services business, Good added that when he first started out, “It was all about rate and no annual fee, then rewards became prevalent, they still are today … but while Gen Z and millennials certainly want a low-rate card, and they want rewards that are competitive — they are the first generation to actually say that what’s more important than rate and rewards is that the experience be digital. Therefore, you have to invest in that technology.”

That digital-first behavioral mindset needs to be realized across every touchpoint, Good said. “It’s no longer acceptable to tell someone who is Gen Z that they have to fill out a paper application — it’s often not even acceptable to send them to a website. They want to be able to do it online, certainly, but they prefer to apply through a banking app, or they want to use new functionality like text-to-apply.”

He emphasized that Gen Z and millennial customers who have their needs met now are more likely to stay with a financial institution when it comes time to purchase their first home, begin building their savings and investments, or take out a business loan because “they will be more likely to see you as their primary financial institution.”

Making the Switch from Debit to Credit Products

Good noted that credit card products must provide strong risk management for younger consumers just starting off their credit journey, while also investing further in the capabilities and solutions this cohort prefers.

“You have to invest in the products [younger generations] are looking for, digital tools, financial education resources,” Good said. “Seventy-eight percent of Americans say they wish they understood better how to manage their money, and 33% of Gen Z say they learn about managing their money through social media outlets such as TikTok, Instagram or YouTube.”

As macroeconomic headwinds continue to drive widespread pessimism and dampen consumers’ outlook about their ability to meet their financial goals, Good said that while no sociologist, he understands why Gen Z and millennials are increasingly “careful and conscious” concerning finances.

Still, Good noted that as consumers financially mature, they start to make bigger purchases that can be better served by credit products. “Why not make sure you have that full banking relationship, where [younger consumers] have both their credit and debit card with you,” Good said, adding that it’s important to market them as collaborative, and not competitive, products.

“Every consumer is at a different place, and being able to personalize that and have both functionalities available is very important,” he noted.

As for what Good is looking forward to most?

It’s helping community banks and credit unions navigate today’s complex environment and challenging macro forces in order to bring to market credit card strategies that successfully provide value to customers for years to come.