PSCU's 2021 Eye on Payments Report is a Mixed Bag for Credit Unions

By W.B. King


Among findings from a new PSCU report is a growing demand for a personalized payments experience. And the good news for credit unions is that nearly eight out of 10 survey respondents said they want to conduct respective banking business with a financial institution that knows them personally.


The bad news is that due to the pandemic and the rise of challenger institutions, the report also found that digital payment offerings and consumer retail expectations have shifted and those credit unions that aren’t course-correcting could be left behind.


“Tech giants like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify, among others, have introduced extreme personalization to consumers when shopping online, ordering groceries, watching TV or listening to their favorite podcast, so it should come as no surprise that this type of customization is now expected from consumers’ financial partners,” said Tom Pierce, chief marketing officer at PSCU.


“2021 Eye on Payments,” PSCU’s fourth annual installment of its robust payments report, surveyed more than 1,750 credit union members and non-members from across the nation. Participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 65-plus and were comprised of an even split of males and females.



“Respondents to this year’s survey also indicated they are turning to mobile wallets, digital payments and contactless cards more and more, which aligns with trends we started to see take shape in 2020 and have continued to track through our monthly PSCU Payments Index,” said Pierce.


When asked if they use a greater variety of payments methods today opposed to a few years ago, 62% of total respondents agreed or completely agreed. Sixty-six percent of credit union members and 57% of non-credit union members agreed or completely agreed.


What bodes well for the credit union model, the report postulates, is a snapshot of the Texas market where 87% of all Texas respondents and 94% of all Texas credit union members want to do business with a financial institution that knows them personally.


“Across the board, modern consumers expect personalization. But when it comes to individualization and banking relationships, Texas residents surveyed stand out from the rest of the nation,” the report stated.


From a national respective, credit unions received high marks when it came to questions regarding trust with 91% of credit union members citing that credit unions are "good places to get advice and guidance" on financial matters.


The Great Accelerator


Mobile wallets, digital payments and contactless cards continued to proliferate, the report noted. The number of respondents that reported having a contactless card, for example, increased by 124%, from just 25% in 2019 to 56% in 2021.


While 60% of all respondents’ top reason for using a mobile wallet was due to convenience, 40% of those polled said the number one reason they do not use a mobile wallet is not knowing how it works. Those who do not use a mobile wallet also reported not doing so because they believe it is not secure (32%) or they feel it is inconvenient (20%).


What is important to track, the report stated, is that all generations surveyed said that they used their contactless cards more now than before the pandemic.


“Eight-six percent of respondents with a contactless card report using it at least a few times per year, as opposed to only 65% pre-pandemic,” the report noted. “Most often, credit union members reported using a contactless card at large/big-box retailers (45%) or grocery stores (55%).”


Additionally, 57% of all respondents report using digital payment methods such as Venmo, Zelle, Apple Pay or another payment app at least periodically, as opposed to 49% in 2020 and 42% in 2019.


Calling the last 20 months since COVID-19 gripped the world as “The Great Accelerator,” the report found that due to tech giants like Amazon and Netflix, consumer preferences have likely changed forever.


The takeaway for credit unions is that they can no longer solely rely on the longstanding trust and loyalty of respective membership, but must also proactively build on the “people helping people” industry ethos.


“Credit unions not already gearing up to keep pace with this shifting consumer expectation will get left behind,” the report noted. “During this time of acceleration and transition, we believe a square focus on the shifting preferences and expectations of consumers – from digital and personalization to financial wellness and more – will continue to position the credit union industry for growth. As we find ourselves at a distinct inflection point, our industry has a unique role to play as we help fuel members’ financial health and success.”


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