(New York, NY and London, UK) COVID-19 has put additional financial strain on cardholders globally, but some issuers are trying to lessen the immediate burden. Auriemma Group’s latest issues of Cardbeat US and UK uncover how the pandemic could be affecting on-time payments, which accommodations issuers are offering consumers to help ease the strain, and how card rotation is being impacted as a result.
While missing payments is not exclusive to COVID-19, wage cuts, job loss, and other unexpected financial stressors could make missed or late payments more common. According to Auriemma’s research, about one-sixth of cardholders in both markets say they have missed a payment over the last 6 months. During this time, unemployment figures in both regions increased, with many cardholders needing government aid. However, credit card issuers in both geographies are finding creative ways to assist cardholders through this unprecedented time.
Payment Holidays Provide Short-Term Relief
One of the many ways UK card issuers are helping relieve payment pressure for their cardholders is by offering payment holidays, which allows cardholders to miss monthly payments without penalty. Auriemma’s research found that 20% of UK credit cardholders were aware of the option to take a payment holiday from their issuer, and 33% of them accepted the offer.
The high take-rate is unsurprising given the circumstance. Pandemic-adjacent reasons are most often cited for their acceptance, including wanting to keep money in their bank account and that it would help with cash flow.
“Payment holidays offer a temporary solution for an immediate problem,” says Jaclyn Holmes, Director at Auriemma Group. “And while the accommodation has become a necessary offering for high street banks in this moment, issuers will need to determine and communicate its intended tenure before it becomes table stakes for their cardholders.”
Long-Term Accommodations Chart a Corrective Course
While payment holidays offer a short-term fix, impacted cardholders can be transitioned to other accommodations meant to improve their financial standing in the long-term. In the US, 40% of cardholders have been offered at least one of the accommodations tested in Auriemma’s study (e.g., a reduction in their monthly minimum payments or interest rate, waived interest charges, forbearance options, hardship programs)within the past 6 months.
According to Auriemma’s study, the top offers include increasing credit card limits (20%), offering hardship programs (17%), and providing forbearance options (16%). These accommodations are popular among those offered them, with over half accepting.
“Offering payment accommodations provides a halo effect for your brand,” says Holmes. “Those offered a payment accommodation say they felt more positively about their card issuer as a result, which, along with attractive rewards and benefits, could influence card selection when making a purchase.”
Accommodations and Attractive Rewards Could Impact Card Selection
Over six-in-ten cardholders in both regions report using multiple payment cards in the past 30 days. These individuals are also more likely than their counterparts who used a single payment card to have taken either a payment accommodation or a payment holiday. And while goodwill derived from payment accommodations has an ancillary influence on which card is chosen in the near-term, attractive rewards and benefits remain the main drivers of card choice, regardless of locale.
“When the dust settles, consumers struggling financially will look back on this time and remember which issuers had their back” says Holmes. “Rewards and benefits continue to be critical factors in card selection, but they’re not the only consideration at the moment. Issuers who give their cardholders both payment flexibility and relevant benefits during these uncertain times will be best suited to secure or maintain their top-of-wallet position.”
This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the US by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma Group (Auriemma) in June 2020 among 811 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed for both is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing among sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ±5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed, nor did respondents know the criteria for qualifying. The average interview length was 22 minutes.
This Auriemma Group study was conducted online within the UK by an independent field service provider on behalf of Auriemma in July 2020, among 800 adult credit cardholders. The number of interviews completed on a monthly basis is sufficient to allow for statistical significance testing between sub-groups at the 95% confidence level ± 5%, unless otherwise noted. The purpose of the research was not disclosed nor did the respondents know the criteria for qualification. The average interview length was 20 minutes.
For more than 30 years, Auriemma’s mission has been to empower clients with authoritative data and actionable insights. Our team comprises recognized experts in four primary areas: operational effectiveness, consumer research, co-brand partnerships, and corporate finance. Our business intelligence and advisory services give clients access to the data, expertise and tools they need to navigate an increasingly complex environment and maximize their performance. Auriemma serves the consumer financial services ecosystem from our offices in New York City and London. For more information, call Jaclyn Holmes at (+1) 646-454-4200.