Moving to Vertical EMV Cards: Advance Financial FCU

By | June 20, 2017

Schererville, Ind.-based Advance Financial Federal Credit Union announced last week that it began issuing a new Visa EMV debit card with a vertical orientation — a rebellious graphics-design maneuver highlighting some of the pros and cons of quite literally “upending” a long industry tradition of horizontal card design.

“We wanted a new look that would take advantage of our very contemporary color palate and because the design is vertical in format, we’d be reinforcing our philosophy of being ‘Always Ahead,’” Advance Financial President/CEO Jerry Gomez said. “The new look and design will provide that important ‘top of wallet’ appearance that all cards seek to achieve. I believe we are the first in our marketplace to go vertical.”

The card was designed by Advance Financial’s marketing communications partner, Yale Gordon & Associates. Advance Financial Federal Credit Union has $144 million in assets and about 15,000 members.

Vertical credit and debit cards are an option for most credit union issuers, but pros say there are three things to keep in mind before rotating those cards 90 degrees.

1.       Remember that cards are more than just plastic.

They’re also marketing vehicles, said Troy Bernard, who is director of strategic marketing and products at CPI Card Group, which is a card production and services company based in Littleton, Colo.

“I’m a believer that it is difficult for financial institutions in general to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” he said. “The payment card is a CU’s most critical brand reminder — one that its members potentially see every day. They should use that real estate and creative design to their advantage and make their card and brand stand out as much as possible.”

2.       Not everybody “gets it.”

Vertical orientations can confuse some cardholders and cashiers, but the risk in minimal, Bernard said.

“Some in the industry have claimed that given the transition to EMV and the way cards must be inserted in the EMV terminal, it makes sense to vertically print cards – the vertical orientation is more compatible and would make the card easier to read. But vertical cards would need to be printed in the opposite direction of the AFFCU card to deliver that convenience,” he added.

“While a CU can always choose to place the account number on the back in the horizontal format, the sheer change of putting it on the short edge of the face of a vertical card can contribute to confusion,” added Megan Bogard, who is a senior designer at CPI Card Group.

“Additionally, if introducing vertical cards may align with their business needs, CUs should first give some thought to the types of terminals their local customers and prospects are most likely using their cards in and if their target audience would be receptive to it,” she noted.

3.       Vertical cards are rare.

Vertical cards aren’t a new idea in the financial services industry, but they’re still relatively uncommon, according to Bogard.

That’s part of the draw, she added.

“[Differentiation] is the biggest advantage. Especially when considering card personalization and the different things possible with the vertical orientation. Of course, assuming the personalization occurs on the face of the card, a flat style will be required, and the numbers can be printed in a smaller scale to accommodate the design, while the mag stripe and chip remain in their standard places,” she explained. “Offering customers such vertically oriented personalization capabilities can certainly be a big differentiator for CUs.”

Source: Credit Union Times