Union Savings Bank is rolling out contactless debit cards to current and new customers – but the timing is entirely unintentional.
“We always listen to our customers to see which of our policies and services could be improved,” said Peter Scotch USB senior vice president, director of the Innovation Center. “We started working on the card about a year ago – it’s been a part of our long-term plan to roll out new services – and we happen to be rolling it out in what is a particularly useful period.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic – when even using cash is generally frowned upon for fear of contamination – it is difficult to envision a more opportune time to introduce a contactless card, though Scotch is quick to re-emphasize that the arrival of the Danbury-based bank’s contactless card is coincidental.
USB’s entry into the contactless card field comes at an opportune time nevertheless. According to Grandview Research, global contactless-payment transactions were worth $1.06 trillion in 2019 and were predicted – before the pandemic, at any rate – to reach $1.32 trillion this year.
And according to Visa, as of March 2020, 71% of face-to-face transactions in the U.S. occurred at contactless-enabled locations.
A contactless debit card can be used by tapping or waving it at checkout; Scotch noted that for some terminals, the customer may be able to simply tap their wallet against the payment reader. The debit cards also can be added to a digital wallet on a phone or smartwatch. Consumers still have the option of using the card chip or swipe features to make payments.
Contactless card payments provide the same security and encryption as credit and debit card chip-security technology EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa, the three companies that created the system). A one-time security code is generated that is unique to each transaction and protects the card from being used for any future, unauthorized payments.
Scotch noted that another level of protection USB offers is Debit Card Controls, available within the USB mobile app. That feature allows customers to turn on or off debit cards in real time, reducing the risk of fraud if cards are misplaced.
“You can also use the app to set limits for yourself,” he said. “For example, if you set it to $100, then no transaction can be approved for more than that on the card. It’s designed to put the control in your hands, which is something our customers want.”
USB began distributing the cards in June to all new account holders, as well as to those whose debit cards are being renewed. “The responses have been great,” Scotch said. “We’re now getting inquiries from other customers who want to know how to get one.”
The USB card works at most merchants who already accept Apple Pay and the like, including Stop & Shop and BJ’s Wholesale Club, not to mention local businesses like Captain Lou’s Chowdah House in Bethel.
“We really like the system,” said owner Damian Albano, “especially the reporting it provides about sales per day. It breaks our sales down into categories and shows us what our best sellers are and what we should be emphasizing. And we’ve been able to adjust our prices a dollar or two, which makes a big difference for us.”
Albano said his restaurant, which opened a little over a year ago, turned to online ordering for the first time during the pandemic; even now that it has reopened, online sales still make up around 75% of his business.
“It’s been really helpful for us throughout Covid,” he said. “Contactless payment has been great. We don’t deal with cash all that much anymore.”
“We remain committed to keeping up with new technologies that our customers are interested in,” Scotch said. While he indicated that some could be announced later this year, he declined to provide specifics.
USB is a $2.2 billion mutual bank with 25 offices throughout western Connecticut.
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