What’s Behind the Swarm of Standalone Card-Control Apps?

  • Philip Ryan
  • May 15, 2017
  • 0

Look in the app store for your bank, and you may find not one, but two or three or even four apps. Some are for business users or treasury executives, but others are for consumer-facing features, like card controls – the ability to turn your debit card on or off, for example. Why aren’t these part of banks’ standard mobile apps?

It may simply come down to banks’ mobile vendors being unwilling or unable to add card controls, said Robb Gaynor, co-founder and chief product officer of Austin, Texas-based Malauzai, which builds software for financial services.

Visa and Mastercard are both making pushes in this area, and much of this activity uses white-labeled technology from San Jose, Calif.-based Ondot Systems, which launched in 2014. Mastercard’s solution uses technology from Orbiscom, which it partnered with in 2007 and acquired in 2009, Mastercard’s spokeswoman said. Card controls can be simple, from the ability to shut down a lost or compromised debit card from within the mobile app, to more complex, such as the ability to remotely set spending limits for employees, or set up geofencing to limit card use to specific geographies.

Debit cards have grown to account for 41% of consumer spending, though debit use grew more slowly than credit in 2016, due the “rewards wars” sweeping the industry. Though debit rewards are rare, since the demise of the ill-fated PerkStreet, millennials and others favor them for the spending discipline they bring, prompting the launch of startups such as Debitize, a member of INV Fintech, Bank Innovation‘s sister accelerator.

Malauzai had its own experience with standalone apps, Gaynor said. As one of the first companies in the U.S. to implement remote deposit capture of checks, Malauzai found itself on the outside of some banks’ mobile experiences, with rivals unwilling to incorporate Malauzai’s features. It had about a hundred such apps. “We had all these standalone check deposit apps and we thought, ‘That’s great! We’ll convert them into customers!'” Gaynor said. “Do you know how many we won?… Zero.” Malauzai now has about 50 such apps still standing. What happened instead was rivals managed to reproduce the remote deposit capture tech and build it into their apps, and this can be expected to happen again with card controls.

Malauzai’s answer was to turn into a platform play, expanding from mobile to traditional online banking, bill pay, and business banking. “Without these four, you can’t even have a conversation with many banks,” Gaynor said. Malauzai also worked out its own unique take on card controls. Earlier this month, in partnership with Vantiv, it rolled out SmartKidControl, allowing parents to manage kids’ card use.

While card control apps may be proliferating now, expect them to disappear as vendors add controls on their own. This will be a better experience for customers — but how long will it take?

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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