Up until the turn of the millennium, debit cards were one of the most widely-used rewards in the incentive industry. Cash and debit cards are appealing incentives for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t love extra money to spend however we want? Although they fell out of favor in the early 2000s, they have recently been making a comeback as a formidable incentive with considerable advantages in the digital world. One of these advantages is the development of virtual debit card rewards, which have major benefits for international incentive programs.
Over the last decade, debit cards have been recovering from a hit to their popularity in 2001. That year, the Patriot Act's financial security restrictions began making it more difficult for incentive companies to execute debit program. Debit cards have been bouncing back with even greater capabilities than before, however. The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) published an extensive study of debit/prepaid cards in 2012. The study covered the popularity of debit/prepaid card incentives since the early 1990s and found that their appeal has increased dramatically. They are now used more frequently than any other reward in corporate incentive programs (IRF, 2012). The rise of e-commerce and virtual debit cards armed debit card incentives with distinct advantages over other types of incentive programs.
Debit Cards go Digital
E-commerce became a force to contend with in the 2000s. PayPal was one of the most noteworthy cases for the appeal of online transactions. By 2011, PayPal had over 150 million accounts in 190 countries and had become the primary means of transactions for a massive population online (Gardner, J., 2011). Enterprises like PayPal proved that e-commerce was the way of the future for international transactions. With e-commerce, currency conversion is automatic and shipping rates are paid instantly along with the purchase.
Credit/debit card companies like Visa® quickly caught on to the advantages of e-commerce and developed virtual debit cards. These cards remain just like debit cards in that they are useable wherever the card’s company is accepted. The difference is that the “cards” are delivered to the user electronically, through e-mail, with a 16-digit card number. This way, holders of virtual debit cards can take advantage of all the international benefits e-commerce provides.
The Benefits of Virtual Debit Cards for International Incentive Programs
Instant Access for Overseas Participants
If you’re a manager or company owner administering an incentive program, virtual debit cards are ideal rewards for your international participants. With a virtual debit card number e-mailed to them, overseas partners and employees don’t have to wait for a physical card to arrive in the mail. They can go online immediately with their virtual card number and order whatever they want, from any store that accepts the card provider.
Avoiding International Shipping Issues
When it comes to merchandise rewards, most U.S. incentives companies ship items from U.S. vendors. This means that international participants have to incur the long wait times and higher costs of international shipping. When they have the option of using a virtual debit card, they can buy from local online retailers and save on shipping rates. Cargo theft also presents a problem to international incentive program participants. Cargo exchanges between Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, the U.S., and Russia are most at risk of cargo theft. The farther freight has to travel, the more likely it will go missing.
Steve Damerow, CEO and founder of incentives company Incentive Solutions, offers virtual debit cards to bypass these issues with international rewards. “When you ship a television to Bogota, Columbia, there’s a high likelihood that the package will never make it to that person’s doorstep. With virtual debit cards, you no longer shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that item arrives. It’s easier, faster, and you have less risk of unhappy clients.”
Incentive programs refine and retool their capabilities to be as engaging and accessible to as many people as possible. With online technology, incentives are no longer just small-scale operations in which inter-department bonuses are handed out. Large-scale incentive programs like business-to-business sales channel rewards can cross continents. Virtual debit cards ease the pains that come along with international incentive program activity, making sure overseas program participants can join in on the fun and rewards.
FreightWatch International Supply Chain Intelligence Center. “2013 global cargo theft threat assessment.” Retrieved from
Gardner, James A. 2011. Innovation and the future proof bank: a practical guide to doing different business-as-usual. John Wiley & Sons.
Incentives Research Foundation. 2012. “It's in the cards: an in-depth look at prepaid cards in incentive, rewards & recognition programs.”
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