DES MOINES, Iowa-Credit unions need to not only make sure they are offering credit and debit card rewards, those efforts need to be compelling, according to The Members Group.

CUs must get away from the "build it and they will come," and even the "build it and they will stay" thinking to take advantage of a big opportunity to grow their card portfolios this year, explained Aris Jerahian, VP of client relations for TMG. "They have to commit to a marketing strategy. A lot of credit unions sit back and feel their card programs will grow by themselves. It does not happen that way."

Jerahian stressed that rewards are becoming the key growth driver for the card base, especially for debit. "Debit is growing tremendously and members are expecting debit to have the same functionality as credit, which means some kind of rewards program. If you don't offer debit rewards, sooner or later members will knock on your door and ask for them."

Before that happens, credit unions should establish debit rewards programs that work for both the member and the credit union, which Jerahian admitted is tougher with shrinking margins and legislation. "But with all of the regulatory changes that are coming for credit cards, such as what you can do with rate, rewards are about the only thing left untouched. So you have to be creative with a robust rewards program to hold onto the members you have and to grow your portfolio."

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