Dearest Debit Card,
You've been an important part of my life now for several years now, but this Valentine's Day seems an especially appropriate time to remind you just how much you mean to me.
Other consumers treat their debit cards as though they're barely worth the plastic they're printed on. Not me. I knew from the start that you were unlike any other card I'd ever had. In you, I saw my reflection-and that picture of me means I don't have to rifle through my wallet for another form of photo identification every time I buy a pack of gum at the drugstore.
Now, I know it took awhile for me to figure out that I could actually use you to purchase gum at the drugstore. And I'm sorry it took me so long to appreciate the full breadth of your convenience and functionality. I guess when cupid brought us together, he forgot to explain that you were more than just a common ATM card like the one I had in the late '90s. (He also forgot to warn me that every time I swiped you, someone would ask me, "Debit, or credit?" And really, will anyone outside the payments industry ever understand the reason for, or correct answer to, this question?)
But once I learned how to shop with you, I didn't want to let go. And I still don't, except when I hear about people who have been charged $39 for a latte purchased unknowingly with overdraft funds, and then I feel like maybe we could use a little time apart from one another, but it's been a long time since I've heard a story like that, so I really don't want you to worry.
Debit card, you have brought so much joy and convenience to my life. Remember that time I had to work late and really didn't feel like taking the subway home? Having you allowed me to say "to heck with it" and hail a taxi, without even having to check whether I had cash in my purse for cab fare. And do you remember that time that I used you to buy lunch during a one-day business trip, and the bank called just to make sure everything was cool? I know that if that charge had been fraudulent, I would've been protected!
I understand that people are still hacked about the financial crisis, and I know that businesses with reputation problems can have a tough time jamming through price increases or new fees. However, debit card, had our bank asked, I gladly would have parted with $5 a month in exchange for all the value I get from you. While it's true you mainly are a tool I use to access "my own money," I know it costs our bank money to make you available, and to me you're easily worth the price of a 16-oz. espresso drink-but not one purchased on overdraft; that would be ridiculous.
Debit card, you deserve something special this Valentine's Day. I hope a trip to Boca sounds good, because we're going there next month for American Banker's 17th Annual Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Symposium. In honor of you, I'll be hosting a panel there on the importance of communicating value to customers, and I'll be asking the audience to brainstorm ways that the banking industry can do this better, so that more consumers might someday get the same, warm feelings from their debit cards that I get from you.
Until then, please enjoy this issue of the magazine, which features an important story on the pursuit of profit and the right to challenge regulatory authority-and how all of that has changed for banks in the wake of the financial crisis.
Yours forever (or at least until I figure out how to use my iPhone to buy stuff),
Editor in Chief