Taxi giant Uber this month launched a credit card. Unexpected? Maybe. Appropriate? More so than you might think.
At first glance, Uber’s decision to partner with Barclays bank on a new Visa card, now available, sounds similar to the rewards-driven card activities of hotels or airlines which earn the user air miles or hotel loyalty points – activities which have been going on for years with little impact on the behaviours of either the financial services industry of the customer.
But the move by Uber, a business which last month unveiled former Bank of England adviser Laurel Powers-Freeling – current chair of the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe and senior independent director of Atom Bank – as its new chair of UK operations, is something else.
Look again and it appears that by looking at the behaviours of a certain customer set and aiming their product squarely at those ‘digitally engaged’ behaviours, not marketing segments or brand loyalties, Uber has been far more savvy. And around those behaviours, they’ve built a rewards scheme.
Uber customers using their new Uber credit card will receive 4% rewards on dining, which includes takeaways and (of course) Uber Eats. They will get 3% on hotels and air fares – including vacation home rentals (Airbnb) – and 2% on online purchases including Uber cars, online shopping, video and music streaming services. And they will receive 1% on everything else.
True, there is nothing new about rewards schemes. But the way Uber has approached those behaviours is intrguing.
Consider how Amazon built a voice product – Amazon Echo – which enables people to buy more from Amazon. In the same way, Uber’s scheme rewards purchases from Uber’s own services. However, the offering is not limited only to Uber services but also those from other providers, acknowledging that brand loyalty in certain sectors is a myth.
Uber is focusing on an audience which is already digital savvy. This is smart given the most likely initial audience for the new credit card will be those who are already aware of (and support) Uber. This audience is international, and travel factors highly in the rewards scheme (as you’d expect). Consequently, the Uber’s off of no foreign transaction fees when using its credit card is again, appropriate and welcome.
This audience appropriateness is also what makes the card interesting.
Uber’s current audiences in food and transportation are very digitally-engaged and therefore will need no coaxing to manage their card through an app. While high street banks are struggling with this migration, Uber’s audience are digital natives to whom Uber services represent convenience.
The Uber credit card offering will be subject to PSD2 – the second Payment Services Directive, designed by the countries of the EU, which enables customers of any bank or credit card to view their account data outside of that bank’s own environment. Put simply, this means that customers can view their accounts in any compatible app they choose – so, for example, an HSBC account might be viewed via a Lloyds app or vice versa.
Given the recent buzz around PSD2, this toe in the water from Uber may well herald further engagement with personal finances as a whole. They’ll know customers’ travel habits, digital streaming preferences, even which takeaways they prefer. And with the ability for an Uber finance app to give this level of insight, what’s to stop Uber gently persuading you to add your other accounts to their view to more provide a more rounded picture?
A couple of months ago we flippantly asked the question: ‘Who’s going to be the next Uber for finance?’. And now it seems we have the answer: Uber.
We expect that the Uber card app will have seamless links to Uber’s taxi and Uber Eats apps, which will create even more brand stickiness.
The app environment will likely continue to be central to Uber’s services, and once PSD2 kicks in, it would be natural for Uber to nudge customers to tell them their other account data in order to maximise their spend and or savings. And from there, it’s a small leap to imagine Uber providing a current account – tailored, of course, around lifestyle.
We will watch their further advances with interest.
Benedict Ireland is Head of UX at digital transformation agency Splendid Unlimited, part of the Unlimited Group