Mobile Applications

Are Mobile Card Apps Small FI’s Killer App?

Ondot On The Importance Of Better Financial Apps

The need is pretty clear in the world of payments: Apps can potentially be game-changers, but only if they are seamless and bring more convenience to consumers’ lives. And the race to provide such apps – along with better mobile financial and transactional services – is heating up, with fuel coming from such products as Apple Card along with changing consumer preferences.

In a new PYMNTS interview, Vaduvur Bharghavan (who goes by VB), president and CEO of digital card service provider Ondot, talked with Karen Webster about how the company’s new Card App offering – the name is actually trademarked – fits into this changing world of payments, and how it might help financial institutions (FIs) and issuers keep a better hold on existing customers while gaining new ones. The discussion also provided a glimpse into some of the big payment trends that promise to get even bigger in the new decade that is only a few weeks away.

An Apple Card-Like Experience

Here is the abbreviated scoop on the newly launched Card App: It is a white-label offering designed so that any issuer or brand can provide what the company describes as an “Apple Card-like experience” for their credit and debit card customers. Card App’s digital features are meant to enable customer self-service, and include such tools as instant sign-up for cards, spending and geographical controls, transparency into spending trends, integration with existing mobile wallets and easy reporting of lost and stolen cards, among others.

So far, via tests and early feedback, the messages around this new Ondot offering have indicated that consumers are responding positively to an app that offers all-in-one, digital, self-service functions, VB told Webster.

And there has been at least one early surprise in these infant days of Card App, he said.

“We are surprised by the positive reaction of larger banks to the number of the capabilities we announced,” VB noted. Surprised, he clarified, because those larger FIs tend to have the resources to create and deploy their own similar offerings – something smaller FIs generally cannot or will not do. VB credited the interest of those larger FIs to the fact that Card App is available at this particular time, when the potential of having such apps is coming into clearer focus. As well, Card App’s retail banking features and its potential among smaller businesses also works in its favor, he added.

The release of Card App comes as the idea of so-called “Super Apps is gaining traction in both the retail and financial services space. Simply put, a Super App is a mobile app designed to improve and ease payment and retail flows for consumers. Super apps create differentiated financial ecosystems in both the back and front end, incorporating such capabilities as an aggregation of multiple service providers, digital account origination, embedded KYC abilities and real-time payments (to name a few).

As Webster noted in a column about PYMNTS research on the subject, it can take consumers four different apps and four different interactions across their existing apps – and many minutes – to close the loop on that single flow.

That’s not to jump too far ahead of developments when it comes to this new Ondot product, however. The current main goal for Card App – and no doubt for other, roughly similar services – is simply to get consumers to download the technology and keep it top of mind, and to get more banks and credit unions to deploy it.

Bridge to the Future

VB told of one credit union that has adopted Card App, noting that some 25 percent of its customers are now using the technology. “That was the first big thing,” he said. “The way they promote it is very interesting – it’s around consumer experience and giving consumer confidence.” He said Ondot will be doing joint studies with that credit union to figure out the nuances of Card App and to determine potential improvements and revisions.

As well, VB said some Asian banks have also signed up for Card App. “My hope is that the combination of digital and self-service capability will build interest,” he said.

Indeed, the self-service aspect is key, with Webster pointing out that most consumers would rather troubleshoot card issues on their own rather than calling a customer service number. VB agreed. “We really designed it in a way that (troubleshooting) would be front and center,” he noted. “I think that is going to be a big win.”

In the months and years to come, as mobile banking gains even more popularity and mainstream consumer use, VB said Card App could evolve to meet the new or growing needs of consumers and financial institutions. For now, the goal is to get Card App in front of consumers – but the future could hold bigger opportunities.

As VB said: “Maybe it’s a bridge to the future that has yet to be designed.”



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.