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Looking for an Employee or Customer Incentive/Loyalty Program? See the Hidden Power of Prepaid Cards – Hawk Incentives

Hawk Incentives Feature Image

When you decide to use prepaid cards for your incentive and loyalty programs, what you get for your money is more than just the plastic product. Prepaid cards are typically integrated with a number of financial instruments and tracking tools. Such features aren’t just “bells and whistles.” They’re developed specifically to help solve business problems—HR and budget problems in particular.

For the most part, these features are invisible, working quietly behind the scenes of your corporate card program. As a result, their value is often underappreciated. Demonstrating their importance will help illuminate program options that you might not have considered previously. For example, prepaid card incentive programs might have:

Filtered spending

Different kinds of prepaid cards have different kinds of filters for controlling spending, and thus for controlling the specific merchant partnerships involved.

The best-known example of a filter in action is the single-merchant card. These are the cards that you see typically for specific stores (Starbucks, Apple iTunes, etc.). Single-merchant or “closed-loop” cards are ideal for giving a meaningful gift when you know the person’s preference.

In other words, if you know that your recipient really likes camping, a card to an outdoor recreation store is meaningful and valuable.

On the other end of the filter spectrum is the universal card. This card can be used at any merchant within a payment network, such as Visa or Mastercard. The universal cards work well when you’re rewarding a large group with diverse interests and have no need to restrict how the card is used.

Between single-merchant and universal cards are “selective-acceptance” cards, also referred to as RAN (restricted access network) cards. Hawk Incentives’ DirectSpend® cards are a prime example. These cards allow you to select a specific group of merchants where the card can be used. By filtering spending options effectively, selective-acceptance cards give you much more control over where funds are spent and the reward experience your card delivers. Yet they still have enough spending flexibility to satisfy the needs of diverse groups.

For example, a card could be designed for use only at movie theatres and restaurants, and then given to employees to reward them with a “night on the town” for their hard

work. They’re also useful for budget control. You could design a card valid only at a variety of hotels, restaurants and car rental agencies, and then distribute them for use at trade shows, conferences and out-of-town sales calls. This would allow flexible travel while still guaranteeing that company money is spent on necessities.

So what appears initially to be a restriction is actually a sophisticated and subtle way to control spending while shaping recipient experiences. You determine the sort of reward experience you’d like your cardholders to have, and then select the appropriate group of merchants to bring it about.

5% back

Long available on consumer cards, the popular 5% back feature on qualifying purchases is now available on prepaid incentive cards.

The 5% back feature encourages recipients to use their card and keep using it. Essentially, it’s adding a reward on top of a reward, giving recipients an added incentive for using the card. The 5% back feature increases the actual value of the card for the recipient, but without creating any additional costs for you. Bigger buying power, but without a bigger budget.

Virtual cards: eGifts

While there’s a certain thrill in receiving and holding a plastic card in your hands, more and more people expect to transact business online or through mobile devices. This is especially true of the younger generation, of course. Businesses that are ahead of the curve when it comes to rewards and payments appeal to this generation especially.

But the expectation of a virtual payment solution is also common with employees frequently on the road (or who work from home) and enjoy the convenience of online and mobile transactions. Virtual cards meet this expectation, also making gift card awards and distribution instantaneous and tamper-proof.

Client and cardholder service

Client and cardholder service is an important component of any corporate product. If you create a program around prepaid card incentives, you’ll need a reliable service network to go with it, for both you and your recipients.

What happens if there’s a problem with a card? What if a fee appears and you don’t understand where it came from? What happens if a card works at one merchant, but not another? Who can answer your questions about card fulfillment and delivery?

The above questions make clear that 1) there will be a need for customer service; and 2) there are 2 potential audiences: cardholders (employees) on one hand, and program managers (clients) on the other. Both will have questions or need help with their cards/programs.

We make superior client and customer service a top priority at Hawk Incentives. And we understand that cardholders, clients and partners all have different questions and needs. Our consistently outstanding service satisfaction ratings prove that we can confidently support   our products.

Closing thoughts

There’s a huge difference between buying a gift card at the local drugstore, and investing in a well-designed corporate prepaid incentive program. Those differences are subtle, though, and might not be obvious at first. But they’re all geared to solving specific business challenges:

Hawk Incentives Hidden Power in Prepaid Cards Table

It is exactly these subtle, near-invisible benefits that turn little plastic cards into successful, effective corporate incentive programs.

Hawk Incentives Hidden Power in Prepaid Cards Card Examples

About Hawk Incentives

Hawk Incentives, a Blackhawk Network business, delivers incentive programs that build relationships with easy- to-use platforms, global rewards and compelling program management. Our solutions include consumer, sales, channel and employee incentive programs. With a focus on access, ease, rewards and speed, we create a better incentive experience that helps our clients increase their results without increasing their investments. For more information, please visit or email us directly at

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