Capital One Archives

Feature Friday: Capital One Partners with Uber for Discounted Rides

By Jim Bruene on April 24, 2015 4:37 PM | Comments

This week, Capital One launched a national marketing promotion with Uber that provides a 20% rebate on rides for one year. And unlike many (most?) card offers, it's good for both new and existing Capital One customers. However, it applies only to the bank's Quicksilver cash-back card, so I'm out of luck with my Capital One Venture card.

But yesterday they did throw a bone to us non-Quicksilver customers, with an email (see below) offering two free Uber rides (up to $30 each). For me, that's probably about the same as the 20% rebate, so I was ready to fire up the app and swap out my Bank of America card. But wait, there's that pesky fine print again. It turns out the free rides are only for new Uber customers. Out of luck again.


Overall, this is a great promotion. The bank gets both new cardholders plus a pile of Capital One cards stored in Uber's app, a great retention tool (the primary goal?) along with a long-term revenue stream (albeit, not enough to recoup the cost of the 20% rebates, unless Uber is picking up a big chunk of the rebate).

The only thing I don't like is the disingenuous email to non-Quicksilver customers. Capital One alludes to the fact that the free rides are for new Uber users (see highlighted body copy in screenshot below). But that statement is easy to overlook or misinterpret. It's only when you get to the tiny type below, which is further hidden in a gray background (see highlighted fine print below), that the "new Uber customer" requirement is explicitly stated.

Why not just come out and say it clearly in the body of the email (or even in the subject line)? Existing Uber customers are going to find out anyway when they try to redeem. Just be clear up front and save everyone the hassle! Better yet, don't send the email to cardholders who are already using Uber (that could have been determined with an email match for me).

Final thought. Why not provide all cardholders an incentive to enter any Capital One card into the Uber app? For rewards cardholders, remind them they can pay for their Uber rides with points (e.g., Purchase Eraser). Or how about a sweeps? For example, one out of every 100 rides (or 1,000) are free to Capital One cardholders until May 30. That could be funded through interchange alone.


Capital One email to its Venture cardholders (23 April 2015)
Note: Highlighting mine



Capital One's Well-Designed "Suspicious Activity" Email Alert

By Jim Bruene on January 5, 2015 2:47 PM | Comments

image I've used Capital One's credit card fairly actively for nearly five years. And they've rarely, if ever, declined a charge (and there has never been any fraud on the card). The last fraud message I can find in my email was in December 2011 (see last screenshot). But apparently, our frequent travel combined with extra holiday spending, finally caused the banks' fraud system to flag our account, rejecting a $100+ Target purchase a few days after Christmas.

I have Capital One's mobile wallet installed which pushes near-real-time notifications to the lock screen (iOS). I did receive a notice I'd been declined, but no word on why or what to do about it. But luckily the issuer's email system handled that task admirably. Within a few hours I received an excellent email detailing the five most recent charges, and providing a simple "all clear" button that was clickable within the email, a major improvement over issuers who merely tell you there is suspicious activity and make you call or login to find out the details.



This is the best suspicious activity notice I've ever received. Typically, I receive messages similar to Capital One's "old" version imploring me to call the bank (see last screenshot). However, there is still room for improvement, especially in the reporting process.

As much as the fraud folks desire a concrete yes/no answer, the real world is often full of gray areas. In this case, I was sure that I'd make all these transactions, but often that's not the case. Sometimes you don't recognize a merchant or your spouse may have made the charge or you simply don't recognize something you may have authorized a while ago. There needs to be a third option: "I'm not sure." Furthermore, when faced with a list, users should be able to address each transaction individually.

In my case, clearly the Target purchase triggered the red flag. It was a large amount, I rarely shop there, and I'd just flown 2,000 miles from my previous transaction the day before. In reality, the other transactions were pretty meaningless to the fraud-detection algorithm. Even if I couldn't remember one of the previous four routine transactions, Capital One wouldn't have wanted to shut down my account. They'd already lost a few dollars on the declined Target transaction, there was no reason to compound that loss with costly calls to customer service to vet the other transactions.

Finally, I'm not a fan of the web pages presented after clicking on the "Everything's OK" or "There's an issue" button (see second and third screenshots). The bank gets points for thanking me for my help, but they forget to apologize for the inconvenience of declining my purchase at Target. It's pretty embarrassing to be standing at the checkout with a basket full of goods while everyone thinks you are a deadbeat.

The webpage responses don't go very far in telling me what to do next. Even if I'd given the all clear, I'd still have questions. Which of the transactions, if any, were declined? Will the declined transaction go through now that I've said it's OK? And how can I avoid this in the future.

And if I did have issues with one or more of the transactions, the only option is to call the bank, and there isn't even a number supplied. Aren't there self-service options at this point that could save everyone some time?


Suspicious activity email from Capital One (28 Dec 2014)



Webpage after clicking "Everything's OK" above


Webpage after clicking "There's an issue" above


Previous Capital One Fraud Alert (16 Dec 2011)



Tuesday Tactics: Capital One Uses Calendar Integration in Email Promotion

By Jim Bruene on February 2, 2015 4:30 PM | Comments

imageEditor's Note: This post was drafted three days before Thanksgiving (24 Nov 2014), but inadvertently never published. But the technique cited can be used any time of the year. So without further ado:


Capital One 360 continues the tradition of Black Friday banking promotions used by its predecessor ING Direct (previous posts). The direct bank unit of Capital One sent its first promotional tease three days before Thanksgiving (Monday afternoon, 24 Nov 2014). It simply said to watch the site for specials beginning after midnight (Eastern Time) on Thanksgiving night.

The bank has been using a similar direct-marketing technique for years. But this year, I noticed one small improvement. The bank makes it easy for readers to load a reminder to their calendar with a single click (supports Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, iCal).

Bottom line: Calendar integration is a nice touch and something that financial marketers could use whenever there is an upcoming deadline such as sweepstakes, offers, seminars, webinars. It could also be used to help customers remember payment or application deadlines.


Capital One 360 Black Friday countdown page (link, 24 Nov 2014)


Black Friday email teaser (24 Nov 2014, 1:30 PM Pacific Time)



Capital One Uses Email to Request Cardholder Income Update

By Jim Bruene on September 3, 2014 4:34 PM | Comments

I'm always on the lookout for digital process improvements, from the major to the minor. And this one definitely falls in the latter category. But in my 22 years of banking online, I don't recall ever being prompted to update my income so that my card issuer could reconsider my line size.

But that's exactly what I received this morning. At first blush, it almost sounded like a crafty fraud attempt. But Capital One wisely inserted my full name, the last four digits on the account, and promised to handle it in just 60 seconds (see first screenshot), so I'm pretty sure it's legit. They also reassured me that it won't require a credit bureau inquiry. 

Clicking through the email places the cardholder onto the normal online banking login screen. After logging in, you are sent directly to an account-update page (screenshot 2) to update income and employments status. After completing the two fields, you are thanked and can navigate to other areas or logout (screenshot 3). Total time expended = 87 seconds (Internet times were a little sluggish late afternoon on the West Coast).

Thoughts: This card dates back to 2010, so it's possible they are on a four-year cycle to update income information; however, I just sent my W2 to Capital One two days ago for a mortgage refinance. So I have to believe this email was triggered by that; if so, it demonstrates solid CRM integration, although it seems curious that the bank wouldn't just pull my income directly from the mortgage app.

All in all it was a painless experience, and I look forward to seeing whether the bank uses it to alter my credit line.


Capital One email asking for an income update (2 Sep 2014)



Online banking page to enter info


After entering info



Mobile Monday: Reminding Customers to Make Mobile Number Primary

By Jim Bruene on January 6, 2014 6:21 PM | Comments

image Now that mobile is on its way to becoming the dominant banking interaction channel, we are going to obsess on the nitty-gritty details this year, both here and in our Online Banking Report newsletter. 

First up: How to get better mobile data into your CRM. By now many (most?) readers do a good job grabbing mobile numbers during new customer onboarding. But are you doing the same with existing customers? And even if you have a mobile number on file, is it the primary phone number on the customer's account?

Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) is reminding customers at login to take a look at their account info on file. And furthermore, the bank has added a small reminder to make your mobile number primary, if desired (see screenshot below).

Bottom line: Having the best primary phone number is a small, but important, part of servicing customers effectively. My only quibble with Capital One's implementation is that the reminder is easy to overlook as it's buried mid-page in a small font with a blue "i" graphic. A more dramatic graphical treatment would improve the results.


Capital One 360 login reminder page (30 Dec 2013)



Image source: Mobile First webinar by Ken Fang posted on


Capital One Launches SureSwipe for Gesture-Based Mobile Login

By Jim Bruene on November 11, 2013 7:32 PM | Comments


One of my pet peeves is mobile banking login. Entering an 8-character alpha-numeric password is clumsy and security overkill for 99% of mobile sessions. Four-digit passcodes used at Simple, Mint and others is a good compromise, but then you have yet another password to remember.

I've been especially envious of the no-login, read-only services from Southern Bancorp, Commonwealth Bank (Australia), Bank of the West, Westpac (NZ), City Bank of Texas, Barclaycard and others.

While none of my financial providers has done away with the password entirely, Capital One just rolled out something pretty close, a password substitute that uses a pre-set gesture on the touchscreen to log in (see screenshots below).

I updated my Capital One app (v4.3) over the weekend and am happy to report that it worked as promised. It takes less than a second, and due to its uniqueness, it's incredibly easy to remember (that probably changes if everyone started using various gesture systems). It's currently available only on the imageiPhone, but it's going Android in 2014.

Bottom line: While I think the bank needs to expand its explanation of the new feature (see note 2), it's a fantastic development for the mobile experience. And we hope it spurs more innovation on the login front. As a result, SureSwipe is receiving our OBR Best of the Web award, the third for Capital One (archives; note 3).  

How it works

1. At login, users are asked if they want to start using SureSwipe. If so, they press the "Create Your Pattern" button.


2. Users create their login pattern by running their finger between the nine dots. A minimum of four must be used and a few simple patterns are not allowed.


3. The gesture is verified by repeating it, then confirmed by the bank.


4. Users have the option of turning it off or resetting the pattern. To change the gesture, users must enter their existing alpha-numeric password.


5. At login, users are presented with this screen.
Note: There is an option for alpha-numeric login (bottom left) and pattern help (bottom left).
















1. Capital One SureSwipe landing page (at top of post)
2. I'm a little surprised the bank didn't address security concerns on its landing page or within its app. There is no "learn more" when the option is first presented to users. I was super excited to see it, but I'm not sure normal users will be so understanding. I think many will have questions about how secure a pattern is compared to a normal password.
3. This is the third OBR Best of the Web for Capital One, all since 2010, when the card issuer began to really push digital distribution. Since 1997, our Online Banking Report industry newsletter has been periodically giving OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online- or mobile-banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. In total, 90 companies have won the award.  Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.


Feature Friday: Capital One 360 Offers Remote Check Deposit via Simple File Upload (no smartphone required)

By Jim Bruene on March 22, 2013 1:16 PM | Comments

image I don't know how I missed this small, but meaningful, improvement to the remote deposit state of the art. Since last April, Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) has allowed customers to make deposit via the mobile phone app, and (drum roll) via file upload.  

Yes, you heard it right. Simply snap a picture of the check (front and back), save the files, upload to CapOne360, and your deposit is complete (see screenshot below). That means check deposit is available to everyone, not just those with smartphones or scanners.

Does that mean more work for Capital One operations? Sure, processing an uploaded .jpg will take more time. But for the relatively low deposit volume of its savings-account-heavy base, it's probably not material. And the idea here is to get more deposits, not save on transaction costs.

Will there be more fraud? There will likely be more garbage (duplicate pictures, fuzzy images, and perhaps even a few suspicious attempts to deposit duplicate images). But will file uploads create a statistically significant amount of actual fraud losses? It seems unlikely, though I'm making an educated guess.

image Bottom line: The decision to accept any old .jpg was brilliant. Make it as easy as possible to do business with you. That's been a driving force behind ING Direct's success (that and the bouncing orange ball, RIP).

While it's not going to make our Digital Banking Hall of Fame (note 1), it's important enough to grab a belated OBR Best of the Web for "raising the bar" in remote banking (note 2). Nice work.


Capital One 360 landing page for its CheckMate remote deposit service (22 Mar 2013)

Capital One 360 checkmate remote depost landing page

Step 1: Users must enter check amount ($) and which account to deposit to (and optional memo)


Step 2: Interim instruction page


Step 3: Agree to the terms and conditions



Step 4: Choose images for front and back of check
Note: Example images, since I didn't have any checks on my machine


Step 5: Review images & click "Deposit Now"



1. The Digital Banking Hall of Fame is updated annually and published in our year-end Online Banking Report (subscription).
2.  Since 1997, our Online Banking Report has periodically given OBR Best of the Web awards to companies that pioneer new online- or mobile-banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important industry development. In total, 89 companies have won the award. This is the second for Capital One (previous winner). ING Direct also won previously. Recent winners are profiled in the Netbanker archives.


Communicating Downtime and Other Tech Problems to Banking Customers

By Jim Bruene on March 21, 2013 8:53 PM | Comments

image While digital delivery is pretty stable these days, every business has the occasional service interruption, slowdown or hiccup. Even when inconvenienced, most customers are tolerant if you do a good job of communicating during the crisis.

So, what do good communications look like? It depends on the problem of course, but standard tools include:

  • Tweets and Facebook status updates every hour or two (especially if your main website is down, or crippled)
  • Emails or text messages (depending on customer preferences) at least once per day, or more frequently if there is new info
  • Proactive communications to press and other stakeholders (method varies depends on severity of the problem and communication preferences of recipient)
  • Scripts and on-hold messages on the VRU
  • YouTube video
  • Status updates, FAQs and contact info hosted on alternative website (during an outage)
  • Post-crisis FAQ posted on main website for those impacted to read about how it was resolved

Choosing the medium is the easy part. Crafting the content is much harder. Make sure you cover the basics:

1. Concise explanation of the problem and who felt the impact

2. Apologize for the inconvenience

3. Details of what is being done to fix it

4. Timetable for a fix

5. Where to look for periodic updates to above

6. Contact info for questions

Anecdotally, most financial institutions do pretty good on this scale, hitting three or four of the six. But few get them all.


Mini-Case Study: Capital One 360 Mortgage Conversion

The most recent example of a service glitch in my accounts came from Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct USA) a few days ago (note 1). As you can see from the screenshot below, they did a good job of owning up to the situation, providing a special email address for questions, and keeping the message short and sincere. That said, the bank failed to explain the problem, its severity and who was affected. And, inexplicably, they forget the A word, as in "I apologize." But overall, I'll rate this a B or B+ in glitch response.

I have a mortgage at Capital One 360 and had no idea there was a problem until I got the message (even Google doesn't know, according to my recent search). So naturally, the first thing I did was log in to my account. There I found no message or indication that anything was amiss. That was reassuring, but now, I'm triply irritated and slightly concerned that I may have been scammed.

So I used the special customer service email address provided in the customer email (the only contact option provided) which easily could have mitigated my negative feelings. But it's been 33 hours, and I've yet to receive a response (not even an automated reply), so that's not making me feel any better (note 2).

Bottom line: The Internet (and mobile) gave us the gift of an instant, and virtually cost-free, direct communication line to customers. Use it wisely.


Email from Capital One 360 regarding home loan problems (18 Mar 2013)
Note: Special email address for questions



Picture credit: Short Stories for Tech Geeks

1. Capital One (and ING Direct) are better than most in the communications area (this one for example) and I've never had any complaints during my three years as a mortgage holder. So I apologize in advance for using them to illustrate this post.  
2. The original message was sent to Capital One at 11:20 AM (Pacific) on 20 Mar 2103. Perhaps my email never made it through. Or maybe it's in their spam folder. It's a sample of one, so you can't read too much into it.
3. We've tackled remote banking customer service and messaging a number of times in previous Online Banking Reports. The last one was Live Help published in 2011 (subscription).

Categories: Capital One, Service

Feature Friday: Capital One Offers $20 Incentive to Try ShopSavvy Mobile Wallet

By Jim Bruene on March 15, 2013 9:09 AM | Comments

image I have been fascinated with mobile wallets for a while (note 4). They've been "just a few years out" since the first Finovate (Oct 2007), where multiple mobile banking pioneers laid out their product roadmaps. And now we are starting to see real implementations. Not just Square and Starbucks. But financial institutions are moving forward. 

ShopSavvy app with single-slide purchasingThe latest rollout, the Capital One and ShopSavvy deal, was announced last month (press release). Capital One has already partnered with several major card-linked offers providers (and acquired one), but apparently it is still looking to boost its mobile efforts (note 1).

ShopSavvy is a San Francisco-based startup which has built a mobile wallet, shopping and deals apps. It has raised $11 million, two-thirds from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

The company has integrations with a number of online merchants including Walmart, Barnes & Noble,, Target, Best Buy and others (note 2). Those links allow users find online prices, either by scanning a bar code in-store or in-app search, then purchase online with a single slide (see inset).

I got the invite from Capital One Wednesday morning with an eye-catching $20-off offer (see first screenshot below). But this wasn't like a straightforward card-linked offer where cardholders activate the deal and then buy. 

To bank this savings, users had to power through a three-stage process:

1. Sign up for an account at ShopSavvy using the link in the email. It's a relatively painless process, taking just a minute or two. None of my personal info was prepopulated (see screenshot #3-5 below).

2. Add the app to your mobile phone by locating the ShopSavvy app in the App store, downloading and opening.

3. Activate the ShopSavvy app by entering your username and password and repeating the info you'd entered online to set up your profile.

Altogether, it's a somewhat convoluted 5- to 6-minute process, but one that is probably acceptable for early adopters. I did have intermittent problems with the app, network errors, crashes and bizarre search results (note 3). But it seems to have stabilized now after the initial usage spike. 

Bottom line: Once it started working properly, the ShopSavvy features were impressive. The simple search combined with one-click purchasing would make a nice addition to a bank or card issuer's mobile app. I'm still a little surprised that Capital One is endorsing a third-party wallet. But by getting its card "top of e-wallet," the giant issuer boosts charge volume, mobilizes its card-linked offers, and gets a foothold in the wallet space.


Capital One email to customers offering a $20 statement credit to use the ShopSavvy wallet (12 March 2013)

Capital One email offering $20 discount forthe first use of ShopSavvy wallet

Landing page at ShopSavvy (link)

ShopSavvy Capital One landing page

Step 1: Join ShopSavvy

ShopSavvy signup process

Step 2: Add Capital One credit card

ShopSavvy signup, enter Capital one card

Step 3: Locate, download and activate the ShopSavvy mobile wallet app

ShopSavvy download instructions


1. Or perhaps this is more of a straight revenue-play for Capital One, with ShopSavvy paying the card issuer for each new customer.
2. Unfortunately, ShopSavvy's one-click experience does not extend to, but the app does display Amazon prices and it's just a few more clicks to buy there.
3. Initially, I tried the app with a few barcodes I found at home and it worked, but only on the media stuff. Since I didn't want to buy anything I already owned, I went to the last remaining bookstore in northeast Seattle and gave it a try. Unfortunately, this store covers the regular barcode with its own, which are not indexed in the ShopSavvy database. But when I tried it again last night, the search function was working so I was able to easily find a DVD set and buy it from for a competitive price (even before the $20 statement credit). 
4. For more info on mobile wallets, see our most recent Online Banking Report: Mobile & Cloud Wallets (Feb 2013, subscription)


Oklahoma Employees Credit Union Posts Seven Specials for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

By Jim Bruene on November 21, 2012 11:37 AM | Comments

imageDuring the past few years we've reported on Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions at financial institutions (last year). ING Direct is the only large bank that has consistently used the post-Thanksgiving holiday in its marketing (see below) and we are glad to see it continue under Capital One ownership.

imageThis year we found another new entrant for our database of holiday offers, 42,000 member Oklahoma Employees Credit Union. It has a prominent black tag on its homepage announcing a "Black Friday Money $ale" (see first screenshot). 

And from the looks of it, the CU has created a pretty hot offer, leading with car loans as low as 1.49% with no payment due for 90 days (well after holiday spending subsides). But that's just one of the seven holiday offers (second screenshot). The CU is also offering:

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday (Nov 23 to 26)

  • 1.49% APR* on New or Used Auto Loans 
  • 1.00% APR^ Off Unsecured Loans
  • Surcharge Free Gift Cards***
Black Friday to the End of the Year (Nov 23 to Dec 31)
  • 90 days no pay**
  • $149 Mortgage Loan Origination Fee^^
  • $49 Credit*^ with New MasterCard
  • 0.49%tt Business Loan Origination Fee


    Oklahoma Employees Credit Union homepage with Black Friday specials (Wed, 21 Nov 2012)


    Black Friday landing page (link)


    ING Direct homepage with Black Friday offers (21 Nov 2012)


    ING Direct Black Friday teaser page (link)
    Note: The bank does not reveal the actual offers until midnight Thursday



    Fine print on Oklahoma Employees Credit Union offers:

      *Annual Percentage Rate. 640+ credit score. Max term 60 months; estimated payment $17.31 per $1,000 borrowed. Min amount $10,000. Existing OECU loan min advance $2,500. Requires automatic payments and eStatements. 
      ** Borrower may defer initial auto loan payment up to 90 days. Interest will accrue from date of advance. 
      ^ Annual Percentage Rate. Reduction from regular earned rate as determined by credit score. 
      *** Up to 5 cards
      ^^ Max 12 years up to $250,000 and 75% loan-to-value as determined by appraisal or AVM. 
      *^ Initial transaction must be made by 1/10/13. Credit to be issued by 2/10/13. 
      tt Owner occupied commercial real estate. Max loan $500,000. Additional closing costs may apply. Normal lending policies apply.


      Capital One 360 Arrives in February

      By Jim Bruene on November 14, 2012 7:23 PM | Comments

      imageContractually, Capital One had just one year to transition away from the ING Direct name and rebrand with its own creation. Last week, it announced the new name:

                       Capital One 360

      While I like the "360" thing, I'm a little disappointed they didn't give it a separate brand, like NAB's UBank. Here's how the bank explains it to customers:

      Red's the new Orange. Since Capital One's colors are red and blue, our new colors are going to be red and blue, too. After all, we’ve got to make sure we're color coordinated and lookin' good for the family photo.

      My take: Most financial institutions are best served by overlaying their trusted name on all their initiatives. But given the provenance of ING Direct, a quirky independent anti-bank bank (though it was owned by a huge financial conglomerate), I thought this might be an exception to the rule. But I don't fault the bank one bit for taking the lower-risk approach. 

      It will be interesting to see how Capital One positions the 360 brand long-term with its other bank and card divisions. image The "360" implies a full view of your finances, so I wonder if they'll be dropping PFM features into the account soon. There are no clues on the bank's "Our pledge" page (accessed via the blue button above the ball). 

      And long-time fans are wondering how much of the old ING Direct quirkiness will be maintained, if any. One promising sign, the landing page at <>, has a clever play on words along with an interactive feature that allows the user to "paint" over the orange ball revealing a maroon 360 one. Very well done.


      Capital One 360 landing page before "brushing" (14 Nov 2012)


      Capital One 360 landing page after brushing


      Note: Not that it really matters, but I was expecting the ball to bounce, as it used to on the ING Direct page, after the 360 was revealed.

      Categories: Capital One, ING Direct

      Out of the Inbox: Pitches Capital One Credit Card in Triggered Email Alert

      By Jim Bruene on June 14, 2012 4:04 PM | Comments

      imagePrecise, content-sensitive advertising is extremely powerful. It's what made Google a giant. 

      In financial services, the biggest advertising-driven success (after BankRate and Google), at least in terms of market cap, is Its revenue stream is entirely made up of targeted offers to customers who aggregate banking transactions on its site.

      The company wisely uses email to deliver some of the advertising pitches. As we've discussed before, Mint is of the few financial companies directly monetizing triggered alerts.

      We were impressed by the latest effort received Tuesday (see below). Having noticed that our Chase business card was used internationally, incurring a $14 transaction surcharge, they wisely pitched us a Capital One no-foreign-transaction-fee card.

      Interestingly, we already have not one, but two of those Cap One cards (personal and biz) and they are both aggregated at Mint. So I'm not sure if this alert is more of a reminder to use our Cap One charge when traversing the world or that Mint doesn't check current product usage when cross selling (or they don't care). If Mint is only paid on performance (eg. by new accounts generated), then it doesn't matter to Cap One that they are marketing to an existing customer.

      Bottom line: The example demonstrates the marketing value of hosting the aggregated accounts.


      Mint triggered alert (12 June 2012)
      Note: The advertisement is two-fold. The banner with "apply now" is the most eye-catching, but also easier to ignore. There is also a text call to action above it, that looks more like alert copy. It says: "Stop paying extra to use your credit card overseas. Get a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees."



      Card-Linked Offers in the Wild: Bank of America, Capital One and Fifth Third

      By Jim Bruene on June 10, 2012 9:36 PM | Comments (1)

      We are starting to see more card-linked offers (aka merchant-funded rewards) in the wild:

      • imageBank of America: Consultant and former bank exec Tom Noyes showed off his BofA offers, BankAmeriDeals powered by Cardlytics, on his FinVentures blog earlier this week.
      • Capital One: For the past four weeks, I've been receiving FreeMonee offers from Capital One (see screenshot below).
      • Fifth Third Bank: I don't know how long it's been there (the service was announced in late Feb), but today I noticed that Fifth Third has a link up on its homepage to Prewards, the edo Interactive-powered rewards programs.

      Bottom line: Card-linked rewards are great for consumers and banks, and hopefully they will prove to be equally valuable for the merchants who pay for the whole thing. If so, it could usher in a whole new era of ad-supported banking (note 1). In the meantime, it makes for awesome Finovate demos (note 2).


      Fifth Third homepage features Prewards under "Personal | Bank" navigation (8 June 2012)


      Prewards landing page (link)


      Capital One weekly email with five new offers (1 June 2012)
      Note: Offers are typically good for 2 weeks after email received.



      1. We wrote about merchant-funded rewards in our Online Banking Report (Feb. 2011, subscription).
      2. We covered the the best new products at FinovateSpring 2012 in our most recent Online Banking Report (May 2012, subscription).

      Comments (1)

      Capital One Add Rewards to Mobile App, Includes Ability to Redeem for PREVIOUS Travel

      By Jim Bruene on April 20, 2012 11:24 AM | Comments

      Capital One mobile rewards main page Although it was one of the last major banks to launch an iPhone app, Capital One is now positioning itself to be a leader in mobile. Its April 5 iPhone app update included a new rewards function that's the best I've seen.

      Rewards point totals are clearly shown on an old-school "flip number" display (see screenshot right). But the novel part, and this may be an industry first, is the ability to redeem rewards in real-time, for travel purchases you've ALREADY MADE. (You can also redeem for cash or gift cards.)

      I thought this was some kind of typo when I first saw it in the marketing material. So I tested it myself this morning. And sure enough it does exactly what it says.

      Previous travel purchases made on the Capital One card are displayed in the app. Users select the one(s) they want to redeem for mileage points and Capital One provides a statement credit to refund the user for the purchase. Brilliant!


      Capital One's mobile reward redemption for previous travel (20 April 2012)
      Note: Select a transaction (below left), confirm (below right).

      Capital One mobile rewards screen      Capital One mobile rewards redemption confirm      


      imageI also like Capital One's new app "home page." Instead of forcing a login before users can do anything, the bank offers several non-secure content areas:

      • Browse our products
      • Find branch/ATM
      • Mobile banking FAQ
      • Contact us

      These are useful for customers who can't or don't want to log in. And of course, for prospects kicking the "mobile tires" at the bank.


      Out of the Inbox: Bon Voyage Email from Capital One

      By Jim Bruene on February 1, 2012 7:28 AM | Comments

      image Yesterday, I mentioned Capital One's self-service travel notification process. Another aspect of the service is a follow-up email before you head out of town (see below).

      I like the email for a couple reasons:

      • The well wishes make you feel good about the bank
      • The message provides helpful contact info in case of trouble
      • It's an an additional fraud check to ensure that it's really you traveling to Yakutsk next week

      The bank even tells you to call collect. Nice.

      Capital One could jazz up the message with more color and snappier copy (note 2), but it gets the job done.

      Capital One email to customers who've told them they are traveling internationally (31 Jan 2012)
      Note: Sent the day before scheduled departure

      Capital One bon voyage email

      1. Picture credit: Greeting card at Zazzle.
      2. I'm surprised Capital One doesn't use this opportunity to reinforce its travel rewards, mobile app, and zero FX fees. 
      3. We've tackled remote banking customer service and messaging a number of times in previous issues of our Online Banking Report. The last one was Live Help earlier this year.


      Service: The Value of a Search Box within Online Banking for the DIY Crowd

      By Jim Bruene on January 30, 2012 5:38 PM | Comments (2)

      image I've always disliked toll-free (telephone) customer service. You have to find the number, identify yourself repeatedly, choose from confusing categories, then wait on hold until you finally get the honor of pleading your sorry case to someone who has all the power. I usually end up feeling like an idiot or a third grader asking for a bathroom pass.

      Before the Internet, call center service was a necessary evil. Going forward, let's get rid of it. Self-service, whether completely automated or "guided" by real humans, saves money, and done right, can be a more satisfying customer experience.

      Back to my sample of one. When I have a question, I always look for the webform, email address, or even the live chat button; anything that keeps me from dialing 1-800-IMAFOOL.

      But when you want to do something at your bank that's relatively complicated, such as investigate a suspicious charge, change your credit limit, etc., it can be difficult to figure out how to do that on your own. That's why I like Capital One's "Ask a question..." box in the middle-right of all its credit card management pages (see first screenshot).

      Today, I wanted to tell the bank I might be using its card internationally. I was already logged in to pay my bill, so I simply typed "travel" in the right-hand box (see first screenshot) and a link to the correct online form was delivered in the "answers" section (see second screenshot). It worked just like I expected.

      So kudos to Capital One for making it easy to navigate to the right page, and more importantly, handling the entire travel notification process online. Of course, I'd prefer the bank just tracked me automatically via GPS (note 2), but we'll get back to that another time.  


      Capital One aids do-it-yourselfers with a prominent search box on every page (28 Jan 2012)

      Capital One main account page with "site search" box

      Search results for "travel"

      Capital One site search results for "Travel"

      1. Western Electric ad from 1959 (from eBay)
      2. At FinovateEurope next week, one of the presenting companies, Finsphere, offers just such a technology. Capital One, you should give them a call.

      Comments (2)

      Capital One Driving Mobile Use with Sweepstakes

      By Jim Bruene on November 9, 2011 5:54 PM | Comments

      imageBoosting mobile engagement has a promising ROI. Among other benefits, the potential $6+ saved per displaced call center inquiry can have a meaningful impact on the bottom line (note 1).

      And while volumes are growing, Capital One says mobile usage is up 5-fold compared to last year, it's still a lightly used channel compared to phone (voice) and online.

      Yet, for a card issuer, mobile is THE most important channel for the NFC/Square/GoogleWallet future.

      So it makes a ton of sense to pull out the stops now to get customers using the bank's mobile app. Capital One in particular, as one of the last majors to get into the app store, likely has an awareness problem with mobile cardholders. Even if the CapOne native app was downloaded, it's buried so deep on the iPhone's screens, that users forget about it. In my case, it's on screen number eight and I rarely see it even though I use my card almost every day.

      To attract more mobile uptake, the card giant launched a usage sweeps today. Between now and Jan 6, each cardholder will get one sweepstakes entry every day they log in to the mobile app or mobile web (SMS activity does not appear to count). One person will win a 16GB Wifi iPad2 each day. And a grand prize of a Chevy Volt will be awarded at the end (full rules). The total prize package is $80,000, less than the cost of one 30-second spot on an about-to-be-cancelled sitcom. 

      The sweeps is being promoted with a small homepage link and a prominent mention on the main mobile banking page (see second screenshot below).


      Capital One mobile sweeps landing page (link, 9 Nov 2011)
      Note: The call to action, text "power" to 80101, was not working in my test. 
      Update 10 Nov: Fixed 



      Main mobile banking page (link)

      Main mobile banking page Capital One

      1. Of course, you also have to put in place a mobile channel strategy that actually does displace call-center inquiries. That's easier said than done. Also, financial institutions paying mobile vendors for each active user, may not want to boost mobile usage in this way. 
      2. Despite the name of our subscription newsletter, Online Banking Report, we cover mobile issues almost every month. 


      Capital One Pays to Play in Zynga's Virtual Worlds

      By Jim Bruene on September 28, 2011 8:11 PM | Comments

      imageLike most, I've been amazed at how fast Zynga was able to build a 250+ million user base for its social games. But I'd never actually played one.

      Until now. So make that 250 million and one users, because I couldn't resist checking up on Capital One's new product placement in three Zynga games (more on what players could do). The bank's Facebook page, which has grown to 2.3 million likes, has details on the promotions (screenshot 1).

      image Although, it appears I may have missed my chance to interact with the CapOne goat, Visigoth statute or a virtual branch (the promo only ran one week), there are still credit card ads and mystery gifts available, at least in Farmville, the only game I tested.

      Capital One viral gift & banner ads
      Capital One may have ended the in-game elements for now, but they still have a presence in the game. Starting Farmville for the first time, I was greeted by a number of social elements, one of which is sending a Capital One gift (screenshot 2). There is no indication of what the gift actually is. Maybe that's part of the fun, but it seems like a weakness to me. Am I sending someone a virtual goat or a solicitation for a CapOne card (mystery solved)? 

      The company is also running banner ads within the game (screenshots 5 & 6). Clicking on them takes users to the usual Capital One pre-approval page within a separate browser window (screenshot 7). Once you land on the CapOne site there is no mention of Farmville.

      Discover Card & Citibank bonus offers
      Game players are encouraged to buy all kinds of virtual goods. They can earn virtual currency in a number of ways, including using real world cash to buy credits. But users can also earn currency by participating in sponsored activities.

      Both Citi and Discover are offering users virtual cash to apply, and be approved, for a credit card. Discover is offering virtual currency worth about $75 and Citi is handing out about $50.

      My take: With 250 million users, the large brands owe it to their shareholders to see if they can make hay in Farmville and any other popular virtual world. And I suspect there will be a positive ROI for the right mix of promotion/offer. I have no idea what the magic formula is, but you know the direct marketing wizards at CapOne, Citi and the others will figure it out sooner rather than later (note 1).


      1. Capital One Facebook page (27 Sep 2011)

      1. Capital One Facebook page

      2. Capital One "free gift" in Farmville (27 Sep 2011)

      Capital One "free gift" in Farmville (27 Sep 2011)

      3. Choose friends you want to receive the gift

      2. Choose friends you want to send the gift to

      4. Before you send the gift, you have the opportunity to see what the notice looks like to the recipient, and you can add a personal note

      3. Before you send the gift, you have the opportunity to see what the notice looks like to the recipient, and you can add a personal note

      5. When I got back to the game, there was a large Capital One banner
      Note: Starbucks promotion in lower right

      4. When I got back to the game, there was a large Capital One banner

      6. Another Capital One banner ad served while playing Farmville
      Note: Bank of Internet ad on right

      5. Another Capital One banner ad served while playing Farmville

      7. The banner ad in Farmville, led to Capital One's usual pre-qualification form

      6. The banner ad in Farmville, led to Capital One's usual pre-qualification form

      8. Discover Card and Citibank have powerful offers in the "earn cash" area.
      Note: Discover offers 475 Farm Cash (worth about $75) for card approval, Citibank 300 (about $50). 


      9. The first screen after choosing Discover's offer

      7. Discover Card and Citibank have more powerful offers, though it's buried in the "earn cash" area. Discover offers 475 Farm Cash (worth about $75) for card approval, Citibank 300 (about $50).

      10. Clicking Continue above leads to standard Discover Card app (in new browser window)

      8. Clicking Continue above leads to standard Discover Card app (in new browser window)


      Note: If you are interested in a fictional look at where the commercialization of Internet gaming is headed, I highly recommend Cory Doctorow's For the Win.


      Notifying Card Issuers that You Are Out of the Country

      By Jim Bruene on August 17, 2011 6:02 PM | Comments (3)

      image We were lucky enough to take a quick trip to Europe this summer and one of the many rituals of modern travel is convincing your card issuers not to block international transactions. The conventional wisdom is to notify issuers in advance. While not an absolute necessity, it is said to improve your odds.

      The process is very straightforward. All the bank needs is your travel dates and where you are visiting. However, it is tedious over the phone due to redundant authentication requirements.

      Consequently, it's an ideal service to automate with online, or even better, mobile form. I wrote about it the last time I traveled. But this time I put a clock on the process, just to see exactly how much time was wasted, for both the consumer and bank, on the phone. 

      Summary: It took about 1 minute per card to register online at Capital One and Chase. Over the phone, it took 6.5 minutes at Wells Fargo and 9.5 at U.S. Bank. No one has it in their mobile app yet (see details below).   

      I realize that online travel notifications are not a high priority these days. But, it's such a win-win service, I wish more banks offered it. However, the real end game is to build automatic location notification into mobile-banking apps. Even if customers won't agree to being tracked 24/7, there could be a button in the app that users press to submit their GPS location whenever they land in a new city or country. 

      That gives customers total control, but makes it super easy for them to communicate. And it gives you a highly  secure method of knowing your customers are in the same location as their card. 

      Capital One: Online -- 2 minutes to register 2 cards (see screenshots in previous post)

      Luckily, Capital One, my go-to card abroad with no international transaction fee, has an online form to do this. It's not easy to find, but I'd written about it before so I knew roughly where to look. The form is a little convoluted; if traveling to multiple countries, you have to keep pressing "add another destination," but it took less than a minute to add the five countries were we passing through.

      I have Capital One personal and business cards which are integrated into the same online banking platform. But unfortunately, you have to do each card separately, so total time expended, including login, was about 2 minutes.

      Capital One gets extra credit for sending me an email on my scheduled departure day asking me whether I needed anything and providing their international call-center instructions. _________________________________________________________________________________

      Chase Bank: Online -- less than 1 minute for 2 cards (see screenshot in previous post)

      I couldn't remember whether Chase had an online option, so I logged in, didn't see it on the right-hand column of common links. So I went to customer service and found it on the list of available tasks. The form was super-easy; I could do both of my cards at once and just free-form input the countries. Total form-completion time was under 10 seconds, but if counting login and function-search, it took just under a minute. __________________________________________________________________________________

      U.S. Bank: Phone: 9.5 minutes on phone + 2 minutes searching online for 1 debit card (with 2 different account numbers)

      I first checked online to see if travel notifications had been added since the last time I checked. No such luck, so about 2 minutes were wasted. Because we needed ATM access abroad, we had to have this card working, so I reluctantly called the 800 number on a Friday evening, and was told that wait times were approx 4 minutes. I think they were only half that, but it still took me a full 9.5 minutes to get my ATM cards registered. About one minute of that was spent finding my wife's debit card, which I now know has a different number than mine.

      Why the agent couldn't handle both ATM cards from a joint account without needing the other number is beyond me, but he insisted.

      Total time expended was 2 minutes online and 9.5 on the phone: 11.5 minutes total.

      Extra credit goes to the U.S. Bank agent who activated my new debit card that had recently come in the mail. My old card would have expired during the trip.  

      Wells Fargo: Phone: 6.5 minutes on the phone + 2 minutes searching online for 1 card

      My wife carries a Wells card at all times, so usually she handles travel notifications. But since I was already on a roll, I took on the task. Although I didn't recall ever seeing it, I assumed Wells would have an online option, but after a search of the site, I found that my hunch was wrong and that I'd wasted a few minutes.

      I called the 800 number and was able to complete the process in about 6.5 minutes. Much of that time was spent listening to menu choices and current balance info (which I didn't want). Had I known how to skip through the menus, it would have taken only about 3 minutes. The agent was friendly and efficient, although she twice asked if she could also activate my debit card even though I don't have a checking account there. But I appreciate that she was trying to be thorough. ___________________________________________________________________________________

      Bank of America: Phone -- 2 minutes, 0 cards

      I was going to take my Bank of America card along, but after searching customer service I could not find an online form to complete, so I decided to leave it at home. Score 1 for the more online-savvy approach at its competitors.

      Comments (3)

      Is ING Direct to Capital One what PayPal was to eBay?

      By Jim Bruene on June 16, 2011 6:55 PM | Comments (1)

      image Given that ING Direct had to be divested (by agreement with the Dutch government), it couldn't have gone to a more interesting buyer. Capital One was my favorite banking company in the pre-Internet days as it was an absolute direct marketing machine (and still is).

      But Capital One has not leveraged the Internet to the extent I'd expected and as recently as last November, didn't even have a mobile app for the iPhone.  

      ING Direct is the opposite. Much of its 7.6  million customer base and $82 billion in deposits can be attributed to an innovative brand optimized for remote delivery.

      Will ING Direct's online chops boost growth at Capital One like PayPal did for eBay when it introduced epayments into the online marketplace? Wall Street gave it a modest thumbs up, sending Capital One shares up more than 2% on a day when financials were flat. That's a $0.5 billion positive swing in market cap. Not a bad start to the relationship.

      The combined entity will be the fifth largest U.S. bank by deposits (at more than $200 billion) trailing only BofA, Chase, Wells and Citi (table here). However, Capital One would need to acquire six more ING Directs to catch Chase, another one to reach the Wells level, and two more after that to best BofA. 

      My take: I'm not going to pretend to be able to predict the future performance of a $22 billion company paying $9 billion for another. There are so many variables, it makes my head spin.

      But from a remote delivery perspective, they look very complementary. ING offers primarily savings and mortgages acquired online. Capital One is huge in credit cards, auto loans and traditional branch-based banking services.

      So there is one prediction I'll make: The combined entity will be an online marketing powerhouse, and I look forward to seeing how that unfolds.

      Comments (1)
      Categories: Capital One, ING Direct

      Set Travel Notifications Online at Capital One and Chase Bank

      By Jim Bruene on January 25, 2011 6:27 PM | Comments (2)

      image Since I'm about to cross the Atlantic for our FinovateEurope conference, I wanted to warn my card issuers that they'll soon be seeing unusual charges. Luckily, two of my issuers now allow customers to handle that online, saving time and money for the bank and me. Thank-you Capital One and Chase Bank (see screenshots below).

      However, I was only batting .250 since six did not offer an online option (at least not for my account types): American Express, Bank of America, Citibank, Discover, US Bank and Wells Fargo.

      Bottom line: In the not-to-distant future, this manual process will be rendered moot, because my issuers will know where I am via mobile phone GPS (see Finsphere posts). But until then, I appreciate the time savings of the online option and am more likely to use these two cards because of it.

      Capital One "Set Travel Notification" link within Customer Service area (25 Jan. 2010)

      Capital One "Set Travel Notification" within Customer Service Area

      Capital One's Set Travel Notification form


      Chase Bank's Travel Notification Form within Customer Center

      Chase Bank's Travel Notification Form within Customer Service

      Chase Bank's Travel Notification Form

      Chase Bank's Travel Notification Form

      Comments (2)

      2010 Saw 40-Fold Growth in the Number of Financial Institution iPhone Apps

      By Jim Bruene on December 14, 2010 6:21 PM | Comments (1)

      image As hard as it is to believe, last year at this time only 30 financial institutions had apps in the U.S. iTunes App Store (note 1). And that was a full 18 months after Apple's phone had opened its OS to third-party programs. A few in the industry still questioned whether smaller banks and credit unions would ever need a native iPhone app.

      I think that question has been answered: In the past 12 months, the total financial institution app-count has rocketed upwards to more than 1,200, a 40-fold increase. That's 100 new apps per month for the past 12 months.

      In raw numbers, the past seven days have been relatively unremarkable with just 17 new FI apps. But it's been one of the biggest weeks in terms of major launches:

      • BofA Merrill Lynch research library for iPad only (note 4; iTunes)
      • Capital One, whose app was released on Sunday, went to #5 Monday and is up to #4 when I checked a few minutes ago (see inset; note 2; iTunes)
      • NetSpend (iTunes)
      • Schwab, both v1 of its iPhone app (iTunes) and an iPad version of its On Investing magazine (iTunes)
      • SmartyPig (pending Apple approval)
      • Stanford Federal Credit Union, which used a striking background for its app home page (see below; iTunes)

      imageAnd while it's not nearly as crucial as the iPhone, we are waiting for a slew of iPad apps. Apparently, BBVA Compass demo'ed a cool unreleased iPad app at a mobile conference (note 4). And just today, Schwab released its monthly magazine in iPad format, an industry first.


      1. See Online Banking Report #176, Table 18 (link subscription required)
      2. Rank is of free apps in the Finance category in the U.S. store. The apps above it are #1 Bank of America, #2 Chase, #3 PayPal
      3. HT David Eads in Mobile Manifesto
      4. At the same conference as note 3, Bank of America revealed it hit the 6-million mark in active mobile banking users.

      Comments (1)

      Capital One's Online Prequalification System Rocks

      By Jim Bruene on November 17, 2010 1:47 PM | Comments

      image If you've read Netbanker a bit, you know I can get pretty excited at just about any new and shiny bit of fintech. So if you went only by my blog posts, it might be hard to differentiate between a cool new feature and a major strategic disruption. 

      Well, take note, this is one of the big ones if Capital One can deliver on the promise. And that is a very important caveat. The card giant better be able to fulfill cards to the vast majority of those it prequalifies online or it will have legions of disgruntled applicants.

      What the company has done is place a pre-qualification form between its online ads (see banner running on TechCrunch below) and the full application. The form asks for name, mail address, and last four digits of the Social Security Number, plus two multiple-choice questions about desired features and credit self-evaluation. 

      The whole process can be completed in as little as 35 seconds (in my test it took 24 seconds to fill in the blanks; 8 seconds for the results to be displayed).

      Importance: Credit-savvy consumers, about the only ones who'll be approved these days, know that every credit application negatively impacts their credit score, at least temporarily. Therefore, many are hesitant to complete an online app if they think there's a chance they won't be approved. Being able to test your creditworthiness (note 1) without a credit bureau hit is a powerful incentive to move consumers into the sales process.

      The other advantage of this system is that even if you don't complete the full application after the pre-qual, Capital One has captured your name, address, and a positive match with your SSN. So they can hit you with followups in the near future. However, I am surprised the company doesn't ask for your email address. It must have dampened response in testing. 

      Capital One banner ad across TechCrunch (17 Nov. 2010)









      Landing page emphasizing the lack of risk to your credit score (link)Capital One Landing page emphasizes lack of risk to your credit score

      Pre-qualification form

      Capital One prequalification form

      Results page with a recommended card and two alternatives
      Note: I indicated a preference for travel rewards in the pre-qualification form.

      Capital One prequalification results page

      Online application
      Note: Users must start over as none of the pre-qualification form info is transferred over


      1. At the end of the pre-qualification process, the company only says you are "pre-qualified." There is no guarantee you'll get the card or credit limit you want.
      2. For more on online lending, consult our previous OBR reports:
      - Online Lending v5.0 (part 1) (Nov. 2005)
      - Online Lending v5 (part 2) (Jan. 2006) 


      Great Recoveries: Major Banks Respond to Negative Blog Items Immediately

      By Jim Bruene on February 23, 2010 6:25 PM | Comments (3)

      image Twice in the past few weeks, I've written blog posts that had one or more criticisms about specific experiences with a bank's product. My complaints weren't Huff Post calls to arms or anything particularly serious, just small things that had gone wrong (previous posts here and here). And our blog, while well-read in the banking industry, is just a rounding error in terms of mainstream readership.  

      But in both these examples, the bank reached out to me almost immediately, offering to help solve the problem. In one case, I received a phone call (several actually) from the bank's PR department and the other bank left a message on our home phone (note 1) from the "executive office." 

      My take: I am shocked to have heard not once, but twice in the same month from mega-banks looking to solve small, albeit public, customer-service issues. In 15 years of covering the industry, including three with a public blog, I have never had a single "official" call from a bank about a problem I've written about (note 2).

      Businesses have long debated how to handle negative conversations in social media (see note 3). Do you stay on the sidelines, anonymously participate in the conversation, or reach out with offers to help?

      Clearly, offering to help is the way to go. However, you must choose your words carefully because everything you say can and will be used against you by a blogger bent on revenge or ridicule.

      But I can tell you now from experience that it's powerful to be contacted by the business you've written about. My reaction goes something like this:

      • "Uh oh, now I've offended a reader; I'd better think twice about posting negative comments again." At the very least, I'll certainly make sure my coverage is extremely balanced in the future. No potshots, that's for sure.
      • "Wow, this bank really cares about its customers and reputation." That makes me feel much better about them.
      • "Seriously, a big bank that calls its customers when it hears about a problem; impressive as hell!"

      So going forward:

      • I'm more likely to look for something good to say about the bank to make up for the negative item. 
      • I may post an update to the original entry, or even an entire post like this, complimenting the bank on reaching out to resolve the problem.
      • I'll probably tell my friends the story, either privately, or more publicly via Twitter, Facebook, etc.

      These are pretty good results from a relatively low-cost phone call. Sure, my problems were fairly simple and easily resolved, and it may be harder to appease a blogger whose home was recently foreclosed. But why not try? As long as you stay calm and try to keep things constructive, there's very little downside and a lot of upside.

      So congratulations Citibank and Capital One, your performance has been truly remarkable. (Are we good now?) 

      1. The bank must have looked at our actual account info to get the home phone number.
      2. I have received the occasional email from a subscriber, but no proactive effort to provide help.
      3. For a wonderful overview of the ins and outs of responding to bloggers, read the two-part post (here and here) from Vancity's MVP and third-ranked innovator on the planet, William Azaroff. 

      Comments (3)

      Through the Eyes of a Teen: Activating a Credit Card and Signing Up for Online Banking the First Time

      By Jim Bruene on February 22, 2010 7:00 PM | Comments

      image Recently, my college-aged son signed up for his first credit card. He chose Capital One not because of their long history as a card issuer or their flashy TV ads, or even their state-of-the-art website. No, he went with Cap One for the same reason as that of tens of millions before him: a simple, preapproved direct-mail offer at just the right time.

      It's enlightening to see the process through the eyes of a credit newcomer. Even though he understands credit cards intellectually and has used debit/prepaid cards for years, a number of things were still less than obvious to him as he went about activating the card over the phone, using it for the first time, signing up for online banking, and paying his first monthly bill. For example:

      • The initial card-activation process was a mystery to him. He did not expect to have to call the bank when the card arrived. And the conversation he had with the CSR was confusing. I heard only his side of the call, but evidently Capital One pitched both credit insurance and ID protection services. He successfully said no to ID protection, but to his surprise, the first bill had a 1% fee tacked on for credit insurance, which he absolutely does not want (it's only a $300 credit line).
      • He's very concerned he'll miss the payment due date, which seems so far into the future, given the lag in posting, combined with the grace period. The payment on his first charge was more than six weeks later. To him, it almost seemed to too good to be true, and also made it harder to remember.
      • He doesn't have experience writing checks nor does he even have stamps around the dorm room; so even the simple act of paying the bill each month is not as easy as it seems. I helped him set up his checking account for ACH payments (see #7 and #7a below), but I'm not sure that would have been obvious to him had I not been looking over his shoulder.
      • I also helped him set up mobile and email alerts to remind him to pay, but again, without his father pitching in, I'm not sure he would have known to do that. He hasn't set up alerts on his checking account because he didn't know they existed.

      My take: For the most part, things have gone smoothly, and Capital One has done a good job bringing him on board (see below). But it made a mistake with him, one that could ultimately cost the card issuer my son's long-term loyalty, the apparent "misunderstanding" about his agreeing to add credit insurance to the account. 

      And it only netted the bank $0.93.

      I was surprised how upset my son was at the credit insurance fee tacked onto his bill. Even though it was less than a buck, he was determined to reach someone at the bank right away to get it removed and stopped. He felt that the bank used his naivete against him. He felt betrayed and preyed upon. That's not a good way to start a relationship.

      Capital One Online Banking/Card Sign-up Process
      I took the opportunity to document Capital One's online banking sign-up process. It was clean and intuitive and took just a few minutes.

      Step 1: Terms and conditions (13 Feb. 2010)
      Note: The first page, shown below, was reached through a link in an onboarding email message encouraging signup for online banking.


      Step 2: Authentication


      Step #3: Select username and password
      Note: Email address was prefilled from the info from original online app


      Step #4: Choose security questions


      Step #5: Encouragement to sign up for estatements
      Note: Default set to Yes; also, there was no incentive to go paperless,
      even $1 might have swayed him


      Note: You must call customer service to switch from paperless to paper statement, again a disincentive to choosing paperless


      #6 Confirmation (with a dash of humor)


      #7 Set up payment account


      #7a Confirmation



      Capital One Encourages Online Applications in Direct Mail for Student MasterCards

      By Jim Bruene on December 1, 2009 6:57 PM | Comments (1)

      imageMy son is almost half way through his second year of college, so we figured it was time he had a credit card. He's proved incredibly responsible with money, even avoiding dreaded debit card overdrafts so far. It's a good time for him to start building his credit history. And because he flies cross-country to school, I feel better knowing he has an emergency line of credit in his wallet.

      Unfortunately, his student checking account provider, Chevy Chase Bank, hadn't offered him a preapproved MasterCard/Visa, so I've been watching his mail at home. It will come as no surprise that preapproved mailers to college underclassmen have been scarce. This summer he was courted by Discover Card and a higher-fee MasterCard (or Visa?).  But I was hoping for a preapproved fee-free MasterCard/Visa for maximum utility. 

      This fall, Capital One (note 1) began to send my son MasterCard offers via snail mail. Right before Thanksgiving, the fourth or fifth piece in the series landed in our mailbox. He looked at it over the holidays and applied online for the card on Sunday. The fee-free card is no bargain for revolvers at 22.9%, but that's to be expected in this economic and regulatory environment.

      The mailer offered the option of applying by telephone, mail or online. But the latter was clearly encouraged with a red badge, a 60-second response time, and a personalized URL with my son's name (e.g.,

      Online application: The application process was a breeze. It was straightforward and fast and took less than five minutes, start to finish. The utilitarian online application design (screenshot 2) was easy to navigate and included ample embedded help, but no 800 number or online chat. The only unusual feature was the ability for users to select from about 16 different card designs. 

      Because he was applying from a direct mail piece that included full Reg. Z disclosures, they were not repeated in the online app.

      In total, it took about 4.5 minutes to complete the app process, and approval was granted in less than 10 seconds. My only complaint, a 22-digit offer and access code combination. Here's the exact timing:

      • 30 seconds -- Type personalized URL and load website
      • 30 seconds -- Type 16 digit reservation number and 6-digit access code
      • 3 mins and 30 secs -- Complete application form
      • 10 seconds -- Wait for credit decision

      Onboarding: The initial onboarding process was almost nonexistent. Cap One didn't even send a congratulatory email on what is a major milestone of someone's banking life: their first credit card. All he received was the tiny "Congratulations! You're approved" screen at the end of the online approval process (see screenshot 3 below) along with instructions that his card would arrive in 7 to 10 business days. And there's no way to access the account until the card arrives.  

      Grade: Capital One gets an A for account-acquisition marketing and online app mechanics, but earns a B- for first impression, and an incomplete for onboarding so far.

      1. Capital One personalized application screen (29 Nov 2009, 8 PM Pacific)
      Note: To begin the process, the applicant enters a 16-digit reservation number and 6-digit code found on the snail-mail piece.


      2. Online application


      3. Congratulations screen


      1. I didn't realize until today that Chevy Chase is now owned by Capital One, which could be why my son has been receiving Capital One credit card offers. However, there has never been any mention of Chevy Chase or his checking account in the mailers. And one of the application questions was: "Do you have a checking account?"
      2. For more info on how to create a winning online application, see our Online Banking Report: Online Account Opening published in June 2009.  

      Comments (1)

      New Online Banking Report Published: Online Account Opening

      By Jim Bruene on June 23, 2009 11:26 PM | Comments

      imageWe just completed our latest Online Banking Report. It will be mailed to subscribers this week.
      It's also available online here. There's no charge for current subscribers; others may access it immediately
      for US$495.


      Improving Online Account Opening ROI
      Ten strategies to increase online application conversion rates

      102 pages (published 21 June 2009)

      In this report (abstract PDF), we focus on ways to increase conversions and improve your results when opening financial accounts online or over a mobile phone.

      clip_image002The online application is the new branch new-accounts desk. And, just as you provide ongoing support, training and incentives to branch-based sales staff, you must continually fine-tune your online sales process.

      In our experience, this is an area that needs attention at most financial institutions. Things have greatly improved during the 10+ years we've been tracking online applications. However, during the research for this report, we reached dead-ends at three of the 10 applications tested (note 1). That just can't happen.

      The report outlines a 10-step approach to improving the process: 

      • Direct users to the application
      • Set expectations
      • First things first
      • Guide customers
      • Bundle mobile access & alerts
      • Upsell
      • Fund
      • Ask for referrals
      • Stay in touch
      • Humanize the process

      We reviewed the online applications of the following companies:

      • Bank of America
      • BECU (powered by uMonitor)
      • Capital One
      • Chase Bank
      • First Arkansas Bank & Trust (powered by FirstROI)
      • Flagstar Bank (powered by uMonitor)
      • HSBC Direct
      • Huntington Direct (powered by CashEdge)
      • M&I Bank
      • National City
      • Verity Credit Union (powered by Andera)
      • Wells Fargo
      • Zions Bank

      Finally, a 10-year forecast for online account-opening volumes in the United States is presented.

      M&I Bank has an attractive and informative application start page (9 June 2009)
      Note: The online banking guarantee at the bottom is a good way to improve user trust.

      M&I Bank online application start page

      1. Granted, user error was the problem in two of the three failed apps; however, we weren't purposely trying to make mistakes. The online application should have provided assistance in correcting them, rather than leaving us hanging.


      Small Business Networks from American Express, Capital One, Advanta, Bank of America, QuickBooks, and HSBC

      By Jim Bruene on June 26, 2008 4:00 PM | Comments (1)

      Earlier this week, Visa launched its Facebook Business Network. While the first to use Facebook, several other major financial institutions have opened small biz networks on the Web in the past six months:

      • image Advanta's Ideablob launched last September at DEMOfall (previous post here). It's a unique website with monthly contests awarding $10,000 to the best idea, as voted on by users. It's an intriguing concept with decent traction, almost 30,000 unique visitors last month according to Compete (see chart below). (Full disclosure: I just realized I'm wearing an Ideablob t-shirt; schwag can still pay off!)
      • image American Express's OpenForum: As the name suggests, it's a business forum and resource directory, not unlike Bank of America's (see below). American Express has added posts from several prominent bloggers such as John Battelle's Searchblog and Anita Campbell's Small Biz Trends to keep the site fresh. The site has 5,400 members and monthly traffic of about 11,000 unique visitors, up threefold from a year ago.  
      • image Bank of America's Small Business Online Community, a general forum and resource directory, launched in October 2007 (see original post here). It's primarily a forum, with some additional articles on the side. Total membership is just under 15,000.
      • image Capital One's Slingshot, launched in February, is primarily a business directory. But it does aim for community involvement with user-submitted business reviews and comments on certain topics.
      • image HSBC's (UK) Business Network: Another forum-and-blog site similar to AmEx's OpenForum. So far it appears lightly used, with just six blog entries this year and 270 member profiles.
      • image Intuit's Quickbooks Group: Although not a financial institution, the Quickbooks site is a good example of an active community with more content, including ten blogs, and as much traffic as the others combined (not including BofA which is unknown) with nearly 90,000 unique visitors, almost double the number a year ago.

       Unique website visitors in May 2008 (source: Compete)


      Comments (1)

      Industry Participants See Capital One's "Portable Debit" as Potential Disruptive Technology

      By Jim Bruene on June 11, 2007 11:42 AM | Comments (2)

      American Banker poll The current reader poll on American Banker's homepage (here) is seeking opinions on Capital One's new "decoupled" debit card. It's a new MasterCard debit card that can be attached to any checking account by processing transactions through the open ACH system. Cards can be used in PIN or signature mode. Capital One began issuing the new product to credit card customers in March and has signed a co-brand deal with an unknown grocery chain. 

      Interestingly, of the 70% of respondents with an opinion (excluding the "too early to judge" category), more than half chose "Holds potential to disrupt status quo" (see chart above). The poll was first posted Friday morning (June 8) and runs for a week. Check here Friday for the final results. 

      While it's certainly not a scientific sampling, and it's in the free zone so anyone can respond, the results tell me that the product has the attention of the banking community. Whether it catches on with consumers is another matter.  

      For more information on Capital One's new product:

      • Aite Group 13-page report
      • Javelin's blog entries part 1, 2, and 3
      • Colin Henderson's Bankwatch post
      • American Banker's June 5 article 
      Comments (2)
      Categories: Capital One, Debit Cards

      Turning the Tables on the Auto Dealer's Finance Dept.

      By Jim Bruene on July 13, 2006 11:03 AM | Comments

      Capone_driveone_logoTired of competing with 1.9% dealer financing? Fight back with online car buying services. Many financial institutions, especially credit unions, have offered car-buying services online. With 67% of new car buyers researching online last year according to JD Powers, there's ample opportunity to get in front of car buyers BEFORE they arrive at the dealership. However, for the most part, major banks have stayed away from this area, in part so as not to annoy their dealer-financed customers.

      Capone_driveone_homeThat may change as one big player, Capital One, enters the business, albeit with fewer channel-conflict issues. The credit card giant is already a big player in online auto finance and generated 1.5 million auto loan applications across its 44 million customer base last year alone. It recently launched its new DriveOne <> service in several markets (click on inset for closeup).

      Capone_driveone_newDriveOne is a slick car-quote service that rivals anything we've seen online. The design is state-of-the-art, easy to navigate, and, with no advertisements, it's much faster than others. The site, powered by Zag <>, features branded data from Kelly Blue Book <>. Furthermore, it's closely tied to the lender, with a slide-bar payment calculator built in to the main user interface (see right-side of screenshot left).

      DriveOne will connect buyers to dealers who must agree to sell vehicles at a fixed price no higher than Kelley New Car Blue Book Value. However, dealers are still free to negotiate add-ons, such as security systems or additional warranties. In addition to the fixed prices, buyers receive a $250 (new cars) or $400 (used car) rebate direct from DriveOne, no matter how they finance the purchase. Dealers indirectly fund this rebate with the fee paid to Zag whenever they sell a car through the program.

      Powered by Zag
      Zag_logo_1The DriveOne platform comes from Zag, a car-buying service launched early last year by Scott Painter, the founder of and The company used seed money from Elon Musk, founder of One of Zag's investors is Capital One, which led the third round in Dec. 2005.

      In Nov. 2005, the company acquired Autoland, the leading auto-buying service bureau for credit unions, with 300 clients serving a total of 8 million members, primarily on the West Coast. Total annual vehicle sales are more than $270 million. The company says it will have approximately 50 of the 300 credit unions using the DriveOne platform by year-end.

      Last month, Zag acquired Automotive Invitational Services that serves 6 million members across a dozen AAA clubs. Zag says it will be offering DriveOne in seven states by the end of this month and will be working with 3,000 dealers by year-end.



      Niche Lending Online: Health Care

      By Jim Bruene on February 5, 2006 11:26 AM | Comments

      Ten years after the first loan was originated online, there is still a surprising lack of effort at mining various lending niches. Mainstream categories, such as mortgages and credit cards, are rife with great marketing efforts. Home equity and car loans are also marketed effectively by a number of players.

      But when it comes to smaller niche markets, such as small business or personal loans, the big players have for the most part stayed away.

      Capitalone_healthcare_mainpage_2One exception is Capital One, which recently added a new category to its main navigation bar, "Healthcare Finance (click on inset for closeup).

      Healthcare Finance offers personal loans to consumers seeking to pay for the following categories:

      • Dental
      • Orthodontics
      • Cosmetic
      • Fertility
      • Vision

      The website features a 1.9% banner ad, but the fine print says that the rate will vary from 1.9 percent to 23.9 percent, quite a range. Loan sizes vary from $300 to $25,000.

      Capitalone_googlead_healthcare_1Capital One is using Google Adwords to support its efforts. For example, searching for "loans for dental work" displays this ad (click on inset).

      Action Item
      Compared to other loan terms, the health care-related terms are relatively sparsely sponsored. You should consider adding these terms to your search-engine marketing plan. To make it pay off, you should build a landing page that speaks to the benefits of using your personal loan or line of credit for such expenditures.

      More info: We'll take a closer look at Capital One's Healthcare Finance options in the next Online Banking Report to be published at the end of February (OBR 127).



      Trendspotting: Capital One's No Hassle Credit Card Accounts

      By Jim Bruene on October 17, 2005 4:04 PM | Comments

      Capone_nohassle_cardDavid Spade's "no guy" has helped make Capital One's No Hassle credit card customer service parody one of the most-recognized consumer advertising campaigns of the year. According to the company, the commercials have helped lift the Capital One's name recognition to 98% (see note 1).

      Along the same lines,Amex_clear_1
      American Express is test marketing a no-fee automatic-rewards card called Clear. The card, which is available through its website (click on inset for closeup), features no fees (late, overlimit, annual) and an automatic rewards fulfillment, a $25 cash card every time you spend $2500 on the card. Cardmembers also receive a free credit report and credit score each year.

      Finally, Citibank is about to jump on the back-to-basics movement with its no-late-fee Simplicity card expected to debut this week at an event in New York City (note 2). The card will come in three flavors: plain, cash-back, and rewards. The bank's website does not contain information on the card yet, but there is a separate customer service number listed that features a "press 0" option to be immediately connected to a live service rep.

      Although many consumers put up with penalty fees, there is always a point where they just won't take it anymore, especially if lower-cost options are readily available. That's why Blockbuster, faced with increasing competition from NetFlix, eBay, and WalMart, took a significant revenue hit when it eliminated late fees in its core movie rental business.

      Citibank and the others are looking to win back consumers that have migrated to debit cards and/or credit unions to avoid penalty fees and interest charges. The cards also appeal to those with a strong aversion to fees either because they've had problems in the past or because they simply cannot stomach bank fees of any type.


      1. USA Today, 13 March 2005
      2. Citi Simplicty was launched 14 October 2005
          - read the press release
          - see the website,


      Capital One's Savings Accounts

      By Jim Bruene on June 8, 2005 3:36 PM | Comments

      Capital_one_savingsWith the success of ING Direct and other direct banks, there has been a lot more attention given to selling savings accounts and certificates online.

      One of the new players to watch is Capital One. They are beginning to apply their marketing skills, honed in the brutal credit card market, to deposit products.

      Cap_one_google_ad_1Googling "online banking" today, we noticed Capital One in first position on the right-hand sponsored links area (see inset).

      Clicking through you are delivered to a page that markets deposit products much more aggressively than most banks (see screenshot below). Capital One leads with a chart showing its rate compared to the national average (see inset above).   

      The bank offers five different savings products on the main page, each with its own distinct Open Account button:

      • 3.15% High Yield Savings Account (the lead product at the top)
      • 4.03% No Regrets CDs (allows purchasers to bump-up their rate)
      • 3.25% Money Market Accounts
      • 4.50% Certificates of Deposit
      • 4.29% IRA CDs

      The relatively high rates (APYs) are a big part of the appeal. But there is more to it than just price.

      Capital One does a great job of laying out the options, including:

      Capital_one_savings_pageClick on this thumbnail for a look at the main savings page at Capital One.



      Capital One Offers New Account Incentive

      By Jim Bruene on March 30, 1999 5:09 PM | Comments

      Capital One

      Along the same lines, but with a significant new account incentive, is Capital One’s (Falls Church, VA; 12 million cardholders) tie-in on Bidders for airfare deals on Priceline can have their bid increased by $50 at no cost to them if they apply for a credit card. After receiving some 80,000 card applications through the program and paying nearly $4 million to Priceline, Capital One has opted out of the tie-in. But won’t be left at the altar, FirstUSA (Wilmington, DE; 25 million cardholders) is stepping in to take over the program. May the deepest pockets win!

      Categories: Capital One

      “Business Loan” Banner Advertising in September

      By Jim Bruene on September 17, 1998 12:31 PM | Comments

      We visited the largest search/portal sites at the end of September to see who was advertising what for users seeking information on business loans.* We were surprised to find the search term sparsely used by financial services companies. The only advertisers were The Lending Tree pitching its online loan auction service at Infoseek and Excite; Intuit promoting and Quicken on Infoseek; Capital One hawking a 9.9% credit card on Yahoo, and with a small buy at Infoseek.

      Source: Online Banking Report, 9/30/98 *Methodology: We searched on the term “business loan” (parenthesis included) at each of the sites from a Seattle Netcom POP. We hit reload 10 times to measure how often banners were presented. This is only an approximate measure of banner advertising. Time of day, geogrpahic location, and user profile could all impact which banners are presented.


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