Innovative card services: How to stand up card programs with a BaaS Provider

Partnering with banking as a service platforms to launch innovative card services for fintechs and embedded finance companies
Headshot of Marina Nelson
Marina Nelson
Product Manager, Cards
June 21, 2022
Construction site showing card programs being created

The debit card is the most popular payment rail in the United States. It’s easy to see why: Access to debit doesn’t require a credit check, debit is widely accepted by retailers, and debit cards are available in multiple mediums: virtual, digital wallets, and traditional plastic. Plus, the risks for fintechs issuing debit cards are lower because users are spending funds they already have.

Companies that issue cards can earn interchange revenue with each purchase — it’s a major source of income for fintechs and many use it to create innovative card features such as reward and loyalty programs specific to customer interests.

As profitable as cards can be, setting up and maintaining a comprehensive debit card program as a fintech can involve a lot of effort. Your program must satisfy various technical and design requirements, and having adequate support is key to the success of your cards program. 

Banking as a service provider Treasury Prime handles the most complex aspects of the process — such as card design approvals and setting up ATM access — on your behalf. We connect each company to its own customer success manager (CSM), who will help you navigate the various stages of your custom card program. 

In this piece, we’ll go over what you can expect from the implementation process for virtual, physical, and digital card programs. 

Setting up a card program: the big picture

A single card program can encompass multiple card mediums: Physical, virtual, and digital. The process for issuing each type of card is similar, but each type of card calls for some unique steps. Issuing physical cards, for example, can involve configuration of ATM access; digital cards, meanwhile, must go through a special UX/UI design process and must be tokenized for inclusion in digital wallets. 

A quick overview of card types:

  • Physical card: This is your traditional plastic or metal card that you can put in your regular physical wallet. 
  • Virtual card: This is a card that you can display on a web page and use for online purchases. It’s the easiest card to issue. 
  • Virtual card in a digital wallet: What makes digital wallets special is that they are tokenized and for use in digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. Digital wallets have the most complicated issuing process. 

At a high level, each card medium will require the following steps: 

  1. Designing the card 
  2. Securing a BIN range 
  3. Testing cards
  4. Launching the program or going into production.

Card design is typically the most time-consuming part of the process. Treasury Prime provides detailed specifications to help you get through design faster. We also handle approvals with the card production partner and other third-party providers as needed. 

We also do the work of securing you a bank identification number or “BIN” range. A BIN refers to the first several digits of a card number. The BIN identifies the issuer of the card, the network, and is used to help route the transaction. You can obtain your own BIN range or you can share a BIN with other companies. We recommend sharing a BIN because it’s easier, faster, and no less effective. 

Another thing we recommend: Issue virtual cards before wading into physical or digital cards. The reason we suggest this is that, with the right approach, you can get a virtual card program up and running in weeks. That makes virtual cards excellent for beta testing, allowing you to gather data on how customers use your cards, which you can apply when designing and issuing physical and digital cards. 

To get our ultimate guide to offering embedded banking products, download our white paper.

Issuing virtual cards

A virtual card is a non-physical card that can be displayed on a web page and used for online purchases. These cards are relatively no-frills, making them fast and fairly easy to issue. 

Step 1: Design

The first step to issuing any type of card with Treasury Prime is design. By following the design specs we provide you, you can launch your virtual card program within weeks. Treasury Prime will contact you about any issues with design, such as using a font that is not approved.

Virtual card design has fewer requirements and restrictions than physical card design. That means you have more freedom to design your virtual card in creative ways.

Step 2: Acquire a BIN range

Treasury Prime handles the BIN acquisition process on your behalf. If you choose to share a BIN, as we recommend for most of our customers, we will be able to issue a BIN range from one of the BINs we already have set up with card issuers. Purchasing your own BIN range will take more time. 

Step 3: Testing

In this phase, you will issue a smaller number of cards for testing. That might look like issuing cards just to you and your staff, or to a beta cohort, to see how the cards perform. 

Step 4: Production

Once you’re satisfied with your virtual card offering, you can go into production. To order a new fintech card for a customer, all you will need to do within Treasury Prime’s software is reference the customer’s ID number against the card product, and Treasury Prime will do the work of configuring and generating the card. It’s pretty plug and play. 

Issuing physical cards

Physical cards are more complicated to produce than virtual cards, but less complex than digital cards. The process for issuing physical cards is pretty much the same as it is for virtual, save two differences: (1) The design step is more complex and (2) you have the option of enabling ATM access. 

Step 1: Design

Just as with virtual cards, Treasury Prime will provide you with specs to help you design your physical card in a way that meets requirements from the card printer. The constraints on physical cards, however, are greater. The card printer supports specific inks and fonts, for example. Your card design must also accommodate features such as microchips. You will also need to design the mailer in which the card arrives. 

As part of physical card design, your CSM will also guide you through different options for card printing and shipping. For example, you will have the option to expedite printing and shipment of cards for additional fees. 

Step 2: Acquire a BIN range

Treasury Prime handles the BIN acquisition process on your behalf. This process is basically the same for all card types. If you have already acquired a BIN range as part of issuing a virtual card, you can use the same range to issue physical cards. 

Step 3: Set up ATM access

This step is unique to physical cards. If you want to give users the option to withdraw cash from an ATM, you will need to enable ATM access. Treasury Prime partners with Allpoint to offer surcharge-free transactions at more than 55,000 ATMs. 

Step 4: Sample cycle & testing

Once you’ve completed the design process, Treasury Prime will send you a digital proof of your card to approve. Next, you will receive a physical sample. You’ll have the opportunity to make further changes. Once you’re satisfied, you can start ordering cards. If you’ve already issued virtual cards, you may not need to test your physical cards out, but you will have the option of initially issuing a small batch for testing.

Step 5: Production

This is another step that looks the same on the fintech side, whatever type of card you are issuing. All you will need to do within Treasury Prime’s software is reference the customer’s ID number against the card product, and Treasury Prime will do the work of configuring the card and sending the information off to the card printer. 

Issuing cards for digital wallets

Digital wallets are gaining popularity fast. Customers opting to use fintech-issued cards are likely to expect these products to integrate with Apple, Google, or Samsung Pay. Because these innovative cards have to integrate with additional players and meet additional requirements, they are the most complex cards to issue. Specifically, the design and testing steps are complicated, and digital cards demand more development work. 

Step 1: Design

As with virtual and physical cards, you will have to design the card’s appearance in line with certain parameters. But there’s more: You will also have to design the user experience of the card, in line with the parameters of different digital wallets. That means determining whether the information page for the card in the wallet displays a customer service phone number, email, or website — or some combination of the three. It means determining whether that page includes a button that links back to your fintech app. It means figuring out how the user will add the card to their digital wallet. This is an area where working with your customer success manager (CSM) will be very helpful. 

Step 2: Acquire a BIN range

Treasury Prime handles the BIN acquisition process on your behalf. This process is basically the same for all card types. If you have already acquired a BIN range as part of issuing virtual or physical cards, you can use the same range to issue digital cards. 

Step 3: Development

Once you’ve designed the card and acquired a BIN range, you will go about developing the digital card. Basically, you will have to build out your end of the user experience you have designed. This step is unique to digital cards. This step is also where you will configure your card so it can be tokenized. When someone places a transaction from a digital wallet, the wallet generates a surrogate “token” number for the card they use, thereby protecting the actual card PAN or “primary account number.”

Step 4: Testing

Treasury Prime offers extra support to guide fintechs through the testing phase of issuing digital cards, because it is especially complex. Digital wallets require digital card issuers to test several use cases in order to demonstrate the card meets criteria. 

Step 5: Production

Once you get through testing, production is pretty straightforward. As with virtual and physical cards, all you will need to do within Treasury Prime’s software is reference the customer’s ID number against the card product. Treasury Prime will then do the work of configuring the card to be transmitted to the digital wallet. 

Innovative card services: After you’ve launched

After you launch your cards, Treasury Prime stays engaged to help you with all the challenges and complications of running your card program. We help manage chargebacks and disputes, which can be extremely complex and difficult to handle. We also have a built-in widget that enables fintechs to access user account numbers without storing or exposing them, making compliance tools easier to use.

Whatever stage of your relationship with Treasury Prime, you will have access to a dedicated CSM who knows the history of your work with our BaaS platform. Having this special support allocated to your company means faster help that is better targeted to your needs as they arise. 

Ready to launch a fintech card? Watch our webinar about getting to market fast with cards. Developers can also experiment with Treasury Prime’s API in our Sandbox, and our sales team is always available to answer your questions

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