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Visa Gets a Lot of Likes, But the Card Brands as a Group Don’t Get Much Love
May 19, 2017

By Jim Daly

Consumers may like the leading payment brands, especially Visa, but they don’t connect with them on an emotional level, according to new research findings from payments-industry consulting firm The Strawhecker Group.

Image Credit: The Strawhecker Group

“With all of the marketing ... there’s not an emotional connection,” says Drieling.

Asked if they “have any emotional connection” to any of the brands, some 77% of TSG’s respondents said no. The brands in question were Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover, as well as online payments leader PayPal. TSG in late March and early April queried 925 consumers online who carried at least one of the major card brands’ credit cards about their brand sentiment.

Despite heavy advertising directly and with partners such as banks and merchants, the big payment brands just don’t generate the strong feelings consumers have for some other brands, such as Apple in smart phones and computers, or Starbucks in coffee, notes Jared Drieling, director of business intelligence at Omaha, Neb.-based TSG.

“With all of the marketing, the [high] awareness of the brands, there’s not an emotional connection,” Drieling says. “It’s not translating.” The downside of this lack of love is that getting consumers to switch payment brands might be easier than it otherwise would.

That said, Visa, the largest network by payment volume and card count, is getting more likes than its rivals. Fourteen percent of respondents said they do have an emotional connection to the Visa brand, while similar affections for the four other brands were all in the single digits.

Some 64% of respondents said they use Visa the most when shopping, far more than No. 2 Mastercard at 19%. Some 74% of respondents believe Americans use Visa the most, again way ahead of second-place Mastercard at just 17%.

Asked which brand they trust the most, 54% named Visa, with AmEx a distant second at 18%. Then came Mastercard, 15%; PayPal, 7%, and Discover, 6%. The least-trusted brand is PayPal, cited by 43% of respondents. Next were Discover, 31%; AmEx, 17%; Mastercard, 5%, and Visa, 4%.

Which brand has the best overall reputation? Visa won once again, cited by 45% of respondents. Then came AmEx, 36%; Mastercard, 10%; Discover, 5%, and PayPal, 4%.

Which is the most secure payment brand? You guessed it, Visa, named by 42% of the group. Next were AmEx, 27%; PayPal, 14%; Mastercard, 12%, and Discover, 5%.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise to see Visa at the top,” says Drieling. “Obviously Visa is the leading market-share network.”

Conversely, he attributes PayPal’s low marks in some categories to its online nature, which is newer than plastic cards and still regarded by some consumer segments as less secure than cards. Discover, the smallest of the general-purpose card brands, came in low partly because of its greater emphasis on customer service rather than security, Drieling says.

TSG also asked the consumers about mobile wallets. More than three-fourths, 76%, answered no when asked if they had ever used a mobile-wallet application to shop in a physical store. The leading wallets among the group were the Starbucks, Apple Pay, and PayPal apps, each cited by 9% of respondents. Well behind were Android Pay and Samsung Pay, both at 2%, and Walmart Pay, 1%.

When asked which payment method was better, plastic credit and debit cards or mobile wallets, some 87% of respondents chose cards. The leading reason they did so, cited by 59% of card supporters, was security. Convenience came in second, cited by 35% of the card enthusiasts. But among the mobile-wallet supporters, security came in third (56%) behind convenience (63%) and speed of use (57%).

Consumers clearly are unaware of the security systems built into mobile wallets these days, including tokenization, biometrics, and PINs, according to Drieling. “Overall there’s a big disconnect with mobile wallets,” he says. “These mobile wallets just haven’t done a great job in communicating that.”

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