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Paving a real-time path for continued digital commerce growth

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Demand for fast, convenient payments is skyrocketing as consumers embrace the growing array of options available to them. 

PULSE® is introducing important enhancements in 2023 that will help ensure issuers and merchants stay on top of cardholder expectations for a seamless digital experience.

Among the first enhancements will be a Real Time Account Updater (RTAU) service, to be introduced in April. This service applies to non-tokenized, card-on-file transactions and will bring real-time sharing of updated account information between issuers and participating merchants on qualifying transactions.

“The payments landscape is rapidly evolving, and new capabilities are focused on reducing cardholder friction.”

Bryan Manka, Senior Product Manager, PULSE

With this update, PULSE aims to prevent unnecessary declines of both recurring and nonrecurring transactions due to card reissuances or expiration date updates. Participation will be optional for merchants but mandatory for issuers and processors.

“The payments landscape is rapidly evolving, and new capabilities are focused on reducing cardholder friction,” said Bryan Manka, Senior Product Manager, PULSE. “The RTAU enhancement intends to make it easier for every active card to be approved and, in the process, increase authorization rates for merchants and issuers.” 

Prioritizing enhancements that bring value to stakeholders 

As digital payments continue to gain traction, consumers are increasingly open to adopting new and more convenient transaction methods. Cardholders are looking to merchants and issuers to ease any points of friction throughout the transaction experience. By helping cardholders avoid the need to update their account details on merchant sites or apps, issuers – and merchants – can increase customer satisfaction.

Indeed, more than 38% of consumers are willing to change payment methods or channels to make payments more convenient, according to the ACI Speedpay 2022 Pulse report, Billing and Payment Trends and Behaviors. And, based on Mercator Advisory Group data included in the 2022 PULSE® Debit Issuer Study, consumers continue to use debit in an increasing number of merchant environments, with 37% opting for debit to pay for online services and 36% at online-only retailers.

The upcoming RTAU service will provide significant value to merchants and issuers for several different use cases involving qualified, non-tokenized transactions. For instance, RTAU will benefit online merchants that store credentials of registered customers, yet either do not participate in batch account updates or only receive them periodically. 

When a card is stored for repeated use with a merchant or biller and the card data changes (with a new expiration date, for example), the merchant will sometimes try to rerun a declined transaction multiple times. For such occasions, PULSE recently introduced additional and more clearly defined “decline reason codes.” The addition of RTAU will reduce those declines and repeated transaction attempts. “The RTAU process bridges the gap for those merchants and increases authorization rates,” Manka explained. 

Real-time updating could also limit costs involved with handling declines and updating customer card credentials. Overall, the service will elevate the cardholder experience to boost customer loyalty and satisfaction. 

The RTAU service will be included in PULSE’s 23.1 Release. All PULSE issuers are required to support the service. 

Demand for convenience is driving consumer preference for digital 

The new RTAU functionality from PULSE is just one of the additional enhancements that PULSE has designed in response to consumers’ increasing use of debit for digital commerce.

As this volume grows, tokenization will play a greater role, particularly as in-browser stored credentials are moving towards tokenized, card-on-file transactions. The upcoming Side-by-Side Token Service from PULSE will assist merchants that support tokenized cards on file. 

The introduction of the service comes as younger consumers are driving much of the use of mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. More broadly, consumers spanning several generations are increasingly making digital purchases and payments. 

Nearly half (49%) of consumers use mobile wallets to pay bills and transfer money to and from bank accounts and 46% use them to make peer-to-peer transfers, but only 27% use them in a physical store at the point of sale, according to a recent PYMNTS study.

To learn additional details about the new RTAU service or the upcoming Side-by-Side Token Service, contact your PULSE Account Executive or a PULSE debit expert