Top of wallet means something different now

The digital age is redefining payments

Top of wallet is a commonly used phrase understood to mean your card is the first to be reached for when a wallet is opened. However, with less wallets being opened and more online purchases being made, the techniques to stay top of wallet have to change as well.

The advancements in mobile banking, digital payments and mobile wallets have developed a desire within consumers to want a perfect blend of traditional and digital service. Mobile wallets are gaining more and more traction on a monthly basis with tech savvy members, which can be either a blessing or a curse. While of course having your own digital wallet would be ideal, right now the fight is to be the funding account behind them, and the first task being sure that your card is supported in the types of applications.


Apple, Android, and Samsung Pay all have options to put in a credit or debit card at the first launch of the wallets and the ability to add additional card. Just like with a physical wallet however, there is the ability to choose a default card, with varying difficulties of using any other card.

Keep in mind that not all purchases even give the consumer the chance to choose a payment option. Putting aside cards that aren’t accepted with certain services, some payments happen without user authorization. Take Uber for example. They have changed the game when it comes to member experiences with payments, but in a way they may hurt any financial institution not fortunate enough to be assigned the sought after primary card position within the app as most transactions take place in the background whenever they take a ride.


There are countless instances in which consumers input a card to make a payment one time and either the service assigns it as default, or they never put in another option. So really, instead of competing to be top of wallet, really credit unions are competing to be the only card in wallet. Makes the thought of having to open a wallet to find a card and having to consciously choose to flip past it to find another seem like a dream to some.

Woman Shopping And Choosing Goods At Supermarket

Traditionally the fight for top of wallet took place on the battlefield of perks, cash back and rewards. Which of course it still is, but is also taking place on another front which may or may not be more difficult; making members aware of what digital services your branch has and supports.

New payment options and mobile banking through advances are both good things, providing more ways to engage with members. But that is the bottom line, staying relevant in the digital shift really falls on credit unions’ ability to understand and participate in these new technologies.