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

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!

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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

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.
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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

Notes:
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

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.  

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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"

Notes:
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.

Capital One Driving Mobile Use with Sweepstakes

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).

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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 

 

image

Main mobile banking page (link)

Main mobile banking page Capital One

Notes:
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

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).

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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). 

image

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)

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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

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. 
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Capital One: Online — 2 minutes to register 2 cards (see screenshots in previous post)
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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)
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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)
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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.  
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Wells Fargo: Phone: 6.5 minutes on the phone + 2 minutes searching online for 1 card
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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
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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.

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

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.

Set Travel Notifications Online at Capital One and Chase Bank

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

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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

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

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.

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Notes:
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.