Data breaches leave mobile payment consumers looking for rewards over security

November 5, 2015
6 min read

In the wake of multiple data breaches over the past several years, security remains top of mind for marketers and consumers alike. The issue continues to make headlines in the media, fueling these concerns. Initially, card marketers rushed to address the concerns, and consumers indicated that they might change their payment habits in order to better protect their information. But two years after one of the biggest data breaches in history, do US consumers care about security anymore? Or have they become desensitized to the issue?

29% of US consumers have used cash for small purchases in 2015, compared to 42% of consumers in 2014

Consumers certainly haven’t rushed to limit their use of credit and debit cards to protect their information. According to Mintel’s Consumer Payment Preferences and Behaviors US 2015 report, consumers are using cards more than ever for everything, including their smallest purchases. Only 29% of consumers have used cash for small purchases this year, compared to 42% of consumers in 2014, suggesting that consumers are quick to turn to their cards rather than avoid security concerns. This increased reliance on cards is due to a number of factors, including convenience, the ability to track spending, and in the case of credit cards, the rewards to earn. Marketers have been emphasizing security across a variety of marketing messages including the security of debit and credit cards, particularly with the new chip cards, mobile banking and mobile payments.

Banks are focused on chip card education

With the Oct. 15 EMV deadline come and gone, banks are focused on mailing new debit and credit chip cards to customers. Banks are taking advantage of this engagement opportunity to educate customers about the increased security of the cards and how to use them. In addition to the card itself, banks mention that they are concerned about protecting customers and moving to the new chip cards is just one of many steps they are taking to increase security measures.

Banks’ communication process has used a “three-pronged” strategy: let the customer know the card is coming, let the customer know the card has been sent and, finally, let the customer know they should have received the card. Emails alerted customers that a new card would arrive soon, that it would work to overcome fraud activity and also included a general message about the bank’s focus on security. When the physical card was mailed to the customer, the accompanying materials focused on educating customers about the new cards and how to use them, and included a chip card web site for even more information. Some banks also reminded customers of other efforts the bank takes to protect customers’ secure information, including transaction monitoring, account alerts, zero liability protection, and reimbursement of fraudulent charges.

Another way marketers are addressing the issue of security is by alleviating concerns about mobile banking. Since consumer adoption of online banking is at an all-time high, banks often compare mobile banking to online banking as a way to increase comfort with mobile banking and encourage usage. Bank of America used this technique in a recent mailing, claiming, “Mobile banking is fast, easy and just as secure as online banking.” M&T Bank sent mail to customers to encourage them to bank online and on their mobile devices, and focused its message on security. Customers were reminded that regardless of where and how they choose to bank, M&T has safeguards in place to provide added security. Additionally, it was one of few banks that offered an incentive for enrolling in online or mobile banking – a $10 Amazon gift card.

Mobile payment privacy remains unclear

Although mobile banking still hasn’t reached mass penetration with customers, the industry has quickly moved to promote mobile payments with the launch of Apple Pay and, more recently, Android Pay. Banks almost always address security in their communications about mobile payments, but do so most often by simply stating that it’s a secure method of payment, without going into detail about why and how, except to inform customers that payments are secure because the card number is never shared with merchants.

24% of US consumers who use mobile payments would use them more often if they offered more discounts and reward incentives

Since mobile payments are so new – just a year old – consumers indicate that the security of mobile payments is a concern. For instance, 58% of consumers are uncomfortable with the security of mobile payment systems. However, improved security is not a primary driver of usage, either among those who have never used mobile payments or among those who already use them. Among consumers who have not used mobile payments, 19% indicated that they would do so if they were more comfortable with the security of the systems. Another 25% of non-users would use mobile payments if they could get a discount for doing so, with 23% agreeing they would begin using them if they could get rewards for doing so. Among consumers who already use mobile payments, 23% agree they would use these payment options more often if they were more comfortable with security. Instead, they were more inclined to want more stores that took mobile payments (27%) and the opportunity for discounts and reward incentives (24% each).

At this point, consumers may not be surprised if another data breach occurs. The real question is how banks are going to deal with a breach – either on a large scale or in the case of individual theft – when the next one happens. Clearly, consumers question their bank’s ability to keep personal information safe. In fact, Mintel’s Retail Banking and Credit Unions US 2015 report shows that just 41% of consumers are confident that their bank could keep personal information safe. Despite this, consumers continue to use credit and debit cards, online banking, and to some degree, mobile banking and payments. Millennials, of course, appear less concerned about the security of all of these mobile and online services, compared to their older counterparts. That means, over time, security will become less of a reason for not using online, mobile banking, and mobile payments, and these services will become more widely accepted.

Susan Wolfe is the VP of Financial Services at Mintel Comperemedia. She focuses on the banking and investment industries, bringing over 20 years of experience in marketing and research to her role.

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