What you need to know about instant issue cards

Credit cards illustration

Luckily for the many community bankers who are considering instant issue cards this year, adoption of the service has never been easier thanks to new technology. But community banks should ensure best practices for protecting cardholders and staying compliant.

By Mary Yerkes

Many community bankers are looking to enhance their bank’s customer experience, and instant card issuance is an option a number of banks are weighing.

In Independent Banker’s Community Bank CEO Outlook 2020 survey, 17% of community bank CEOs named instant issuance as the technology they were considering in 2020 to meet operational needs. It’s a service that allows banks to provide new or replacement debit or credit cards at a moment’s notice, which experts say can enhance the customer experience, enable card personalization, decrease costs and generate revenue.

The sooner a card is in a customer’s hands, the sooner they can start using it. “Any time a card is used with a PIN on a debit card or signs with a credit card number, the bank earns money on that transaction,” says Tina Giorgio, president and CEO of ICBA Bancard and vice chairman of TCM Bank, N.A. “The more a card is being used, the more revenue the community bank is going to generate.”

Quick stat


of instantly issued cards are used within eight hours

Source: Harland Clarke

Instant issue cards also decreases operational costs related to fulfillment (such as envelopes and postage) by approximately $1 per card and boosts customer transaction volume by 15%, according to a 2019 Harland Clarke report. Nearly all (97%) customers are satisfied or very satisfied with the service. In fact, nearly half (47%) of all instantly issued cards are used within eight hours.

“We talk about higher activation and utilization with instant card issuance, but the real driver of adoption by community banks is the experience with the customer,” says Rob Dixon, the head of product and business development for CPI Card Group, a payments technologies company in Littleton, Colo. “Bank staff have two to three minutes to engage with the customer, learn more about the customer’s needs, and cross-sell products and services while the card is printing.”

“We talk about higher activation and utilization with instant card issuance, but the real driver of adoption by community banks is the experience with the customer.”
—Rob Dixon, CPI Card Group

Pros and cons of instant issue cards

Thanks to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, instant card issuance is within reach of most community banks. SaaS instant issuance solutions require a minimal investment of IT and operational resources. Plus, maintenance, software updates and security are typically managed by the service provider.

The downside is that compliance can be a challenge. “The Payments Card Industry [PCI] has strict regulatory requirements around how community banks handle cards,” Giorgio says. “Requirements include a locked room with the entry/exit way monitored by a camera.”

The upside is that, once a community bank decides to adopt the service, the implementation process is straightforward. Manish Nathwani, senior vice president of product development for Shazam of Des Moines, Iowa, says his organization offers financial institutions instant issuance options in collaboration with card personalization partners.

“The first thing we do is let the community banks know we are here to address any questions or issues that arise for their card issuing needs,” he says. “Even if they have a direct partnership with a card provider, we take on the responsibility of ensuring that client is successfully onboarded. We select and work with the card personalization partners that comply with appropriate card brands for instant issuance.”

Shazam then sends staff to the branch to discuss card printer options. Does the community bank want flat print or embossing? Magnetic stripe, contact chip or contactless card? Template or custom design?

Generally, the card vendor provides in-house training on the instant issuance card printer. In Shazam’s case, some of that training comes as part of the card issuance package, while in-depth training is available for purchase.

Industry best practices

When implementing an instant card issuance program, community banks should employ industry best practices for a secure and successful program.

First, assess risks and understand regulatory requirements. “It’s all about protecting the cardholder data,” Giorgio says. “If you are instant issuing, you should be using qualified security assessors. PCI is about securing the data while it’s at rest and in motion and securing your network.”

“It’s all about protecting the cardholder data. If you are instant issuing, you should be using qualified security assessors.”
—Tina Giorgio, ICBA Bancard

Vendor due diligence is a key concern. Giorgio recommends asking the card provider for its PCI compliance, penetration testing and IT audit results. For best results, designate a point person to manage the program. Banks that have the most success are proactively looking at what’s happening with the program by reviewing the data, Dixon says.

Finally, community banks should market the service by advertising it across multiple channels, including their online banking platform.

Instant issue cards offer tangible benefits for community banks and their customers, but a strategy for managing the program and meeting regulatory requirements is crucial.

“In the end, it has to be about the business case, the value to the cardholder and the value to the financial institution, keeping security, compliance and regulatory requirements and customer experience in mind,” Nathwani says. “If those attributes are taken into account before an instant issuance service offering decision is made, then you are going about it the right way.”

Mary Yerkes is a writer in North Carolina.