Sometimes it takes green to go green. Last week, Citizen’s Financial of Providence, RI launched a new incentive program to push customers away from checks and cash in favor of electronic payments. The “Green$ense” program by the Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary promises to reimburse customers up to $120 a year through rebates on electronic transactions – 10 cents for every e-payment, up to $10 a month, for debit card, online and recurring billpay use.

The idea is that customers will be automatically enrolled in both online banking and paperless statements, plus receive a program MasterCard debit card made from recycled plastic. The average family, by going paperless, can save seven pounds of paper, 63 gallons of water and 24 square feet of forest a year, according to Citizens.

"With Green$ense, we pay customers for changing their habits in a manner that not only makes banking more convenient and their lives more manageable, but also is beneficial for the environment," says Theresa McLaughlin, group EVP and CMO at Citizens Financial Group.

The idea of encouraging – okay, bribing – customers to adopt eco-friendly habits is likely justifiable through long-term ROI savings in paper, even with a major subsidy such as that with Citizen’s. It may not be the only way to prompt them, though: Javelin Strategy & Research found in a 2008 survey that it may be just as effective, if not more, to simply appeal to a customer’s conscience or the need to keep a tidy desk. In that poll, according to Javelin president James Van Dyke, 37 percent of consumers who stopped receiving paper statements said they were most motivated by simply reducing clutter; 34 percent cited the ideal of going green to reduce their individual environmental impact. Only 27 percent cited a financial incentive (improved interest rate, cash back, discounts or rewards) as a reason to stop the paper.

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