CU Ought To Be In Pictures

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The members at America First Credit Union here are enjoying a new but familiar (to them) look on their Visa cards.

Thanks to advances in image technology, America First offers its members a chance to upload their own digital photographs to create a "Picture Perfect Visa Card." According to Rich Syme, the credit union's senior vice president, the new card has generated a significant amount of buzz since it soft-launched Nov. 14.

"Many people have come up to me to say: 'This is so neat,'" he said. "One lady showed me her card, which had her three kids standing in front of the Grand Canyon. Another had her son, who is in the military, in his dress uniform in front of an aircraft carrier."

Technology Working Smoothly

Most members use their own pictures to create their personalized credit card, Syme said, though the credit union offers several stock images.

The photographs people use vary widely from pets to family vacations to vehicles to nature shots.

"I've seen cards with pictures of people sitting on their Harleys," he reported. "This is a big wildlife state, so some people put landscape or outdoors pictures on their cards. Fish are popular-some cards have a big trout on them."

"You name it, it's there," he added.

To personalize their Visa cards, members must log in to home banking, then follow a series of steps.

Syme said America First anticipated a great deal of "hand-holding" would need to be done to guide members through the process. Instead, it has gone off without a hitch.

"The technology is amazing. We thought there might be problems, even though the process is simple, but we have had none," he said. "People upload their picture, which pops into the template. They can see exactly what the card will look like-they can zoom in or out, crop, and add borders such as hearts or snowflakes. It is amazing that we haven't had any support issues."

Of course, some aspects of the program still must be handled by the credit union's staff. Syme said America First Credit Union has a team of five or six people who must verify each picture is not illegal or inappropriate.

"Some have tried to submit nude pictures, so we had to kick those back. Plus, we can't have copyrighted images. Some people want to put album covers on there, or school or sports teams logos."

Emboss, Code And Laminate

All credit card issuance is handled in-house, Syme said, including embossing, coding and laminating.

When a member signs up for a card, it is mailed within 24 hours.

Since America First soft-launched the Picture Perfect Visa Card two months ago, the credit union has done a limited number of television and print advertisements, Syme said.

In March or April, the credit union will allow members to personalize their debit cards with pictures, which he said will be accompanied by a wider marketing push.

We have done 7,000 personalized Visa cards so far. The whole point is to drive usage; to have the member put our card at the top of the wallet. At first blush, and we don't have a lot of numbers in two months, but we think it is successful just by the comments we've been hearing. There is a buzz from members."

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