Trailblazer: PointBank’s successful rewards program

We love the Buzz Points program because it really creates a win-win-win for us, our cardholders and the local merchants in our community.”—Ray David Jr., PointBank

PointBank in Texas was the first community bank to adopt the Buzz Points debit card rewards program platform. The partnership has delighted customers, local business owners and bank employees ever since.

By Cheryl Winokur Munk

Name: PointBank
Asset size: $500 million
Location: Pilot Point, Texas

In 2012, Ray David Jr., president of $500 million-asset PointBank in Pilot Point, Texas, was looking to invigorate customer debit card use. So when staff from the Buzz Points platform approached him, he took a chance and became its very first adopter.

For David, working with Buzz Points was a viable way to bring PointBank customers an enticing debit card rewards program without the bank having to run one of its own. The community bank doesn’t yet offer its own credit card, but a debit card rewards program suited its needs at the time. “Consumers are driven by a reward-based system,” David says.

Buzz Points rewards a bank’s customers when they use their debit and credit cards to make purchases at local businesses. Tylee Suarez, Buzz Points’ senior director of marketing, says each community bank’s program is slightly different according to its needs and goals. In PointBank’s case, the bank was most interested in promoting local businesses and using the Buzz Points platform to build business relationships within its community.

The more customers use their debit cards with a signature, the more rewards they can redeem to be used at participating local merchants. Points are tied to signature transactions rather than PIN transactions, because it allows the bank to receive a higher exchange rate, David explains. Rewards could be anything from a pack of gum at a local gas station to discounts on groceries or meals at local restaurants. Debit card users can gain additional points by setting up all of their bills for auto pay on their debit card. They can also earn points by referring a friend to open an account at PointBank.

Buzz Points also runs awareness and engagement campaigns each month to boost PointBank customer engagement. Sometimes it offers the opportunity to earn bonus points by completing activities like enrolling in e-statements.

At the end of each month, Buzz Points reimburses merchants for any customer rewards these businesses have honored.

Mutually beneficial
It’s been a rewarding program on several fronts, David says. Local merchants are happy because it helps grow their businesses. Retail customers—especially heavy debit card users—like it because they get rewards for using their debit cards. And PointBank likes it because it’s a boon for business.

“We love the Buzz Points program because it really creates a win-win-win for us, our cardholders and the local merchants in our community,” says David, whose bank has nine locations throughout Denton County, Texas.

“If there’s not a merchant or retail-sharing element‚ most likely you’re paying more for your customers’ rewards.”
—Ray David Jr., PointBank

Debit card use by PointBank customers saw an immediate lift when the bank launched the program, and it continues to grow at a respectable clip, David says. About 3,200 bank customers have enrolled in the rewards program since 2012, when the program began; there is no cost for retail customers to participate. David says PointBank was “pleasantly surprised” by the rise in debit card usage as a result of the program.

Local merchants not only see more foot traffic; they can also get marketing help. Merchants, which each pay $50 a month to be in the program, are featured in the Buzz Points app as redemption locations. For an additional $50 a month, they have the option to be featured in marketing materials within PointBank’s branches, Suarez says.

Quick stat


Increase in card swipes among Buzz Points users compared with the national average

David says about 95 percent of the merchants that participate in the bank’s Buzz Points rewards program are checking-account customers. When the program first launched, it gave bank employees calling on new merchants something exciting to talk about, he says.

Liz Jimenez, general manager of Bone Daddy’s BBQ in Denton, Texas, has been a merchant in PointBank’s Buzz Points program for more than a year. She estimates that restaurant customers are spending about $500 per month on food and drinks using their Buzz Points. The restaurant had been looking for a way to promote itself as family-friendly, and this opportunity was just what it needed, says Jimenez, adding that Bone Daddy’s more than makes back its cost to participate. “It’s a popular program,” she says.

For community banks, the monthly merchant fee helps defray the cost of the program, rendering it a more attractive business proposition. “If there’s not a merchant or retail-sharing element, most likely you’re paying more for your customers’ rewards,” David says.

David recommends that banks regularly assess whether their reward program’s return is worth the cost and effort. Additionally, he suggests banks choose a program that can be tied to both debit and credit cards. When PointBank rolls out its credit card offering, which David says could be as soon as year-end, it will be tied to Buzz Points.

Cheryl Winokur Munk is a writer in New Jersey.