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‘Less than 50 years ago, women could be turned down for a credit card based solely on their gender’: Behind the launch of The Card by Seneca Women

  • The card will reward shoppers for making purchases at women-owned businesses.
  • The move could especially appeal to Gen Z consumers, who place extra weight on companies’ ESG initiatives.
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‘Less than 50 years ago, women could be turned down for a credit card based solely on their gender’: Behind the launch of The Card by Seneca Women

Earlier this month, Seneca Women, a global media and leadership company focused on advancing women, announced the upcoming release of The Card by Seneca Women this Spring.

This credit card will be the first card to award shoppers for shopping at women-owned businesses and is powered by Deserve and Mastercard. Deserve provides credit as a service to financial service and consumer brands like Sallie Mae.

the card by seneca women and mastercard and deserve
Source: Mastercard

Card holders will receive 3% cash back for shopping at women-owned businesses included in the Seneca Women Marketplace -- a collection of companies that have gotten the Seneca Women stamp of approval for being owned by women. By the time this card is released, Seneca Women expects one million companies in the marketplace.

Card holders will also receive 2% cash back on purchases in a category they buy in regularly and 1% cash back for every other type of purchase.

Consumers will be able to use rewards to support women-focused nonprofits included in the Women’s Economic Future Fund, a fund started by Seneca Women in partnership with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors that supports nonprofits focused on women\s economic empowerment. P&G and Mastercard were also founding contributors.

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"It's a landmark moment that will have a real impact, and we are proud to help shape the new era of women's economic empowerment," said Ann Cairns, Vice-Chair of Mastercard, in a press release.

Incorporating ESG values into financial offerings could help companies align themselves with their core audience’s values.

“These companies each have a lot to gain from this product,” said Brian Reilly, director of digital marketing at Bankbound. “From a marketing perspective, this product provides each company with tremendous relevance to a specific target audience.” 

This is not the first time we’re seeing card providers take steps to appeal to core audience values. Mastercard, together with BMO Harris Bank, rolled out a feature that allows non-binary customers to put their preferred names on their debit cards. In October, American Express announced a $1 billion action plan to promote equality.

“As financial services and fintech features become increasingly commoditized, I anticipate an explosion of niche banking products,” said Reilly. “We’re already seeing the start of this trend with banks and card issuers aligning their products behind specific causes, ethnicities, gender, age groups, religion, and much more.”

Still, there come challenges with a move like this. Niching down too many products could blur a company’s brand image, for instance.

Financial institutions offering too many products to multiple niches could end up diluting their brands, according to Reilly. Maintaining long term growth also becomes trickier.

But for now, with ESG becoming more of a factor for both investors and consumers, any move that correlates with social justice could be the right move.

In the wake of the protests for social justice last year, the majority of consumers say they are more likely to support businesses or causes that align with these values, including 75% of millennials, 54% of Gen Xers, and 32% of boomers, according to a study by Visa

Gen Z seems to be outdoing preceding generations on this front. According to youth marketing and trends expert Jeff Fromm, Gen Zers have a much higher than average level of distrust towards corporations. They want businesses to take a stance against social justice issues and aren’t willing to accept neutrality in the same way other generations have. 

With that, the Card by Seneca Women could prove itself to win major PR points for Mastercard and Deserve. The card could help these credit card companies solidify an early appeal to Gen Z, which already makes up 40% of US consumers, and is predicted to surpass millennials in numbers by 2026. 

For now, Gen Z, with its distaste for credit card debt, seems to be moving towards the trendier BNPL movement. But with credit card companies marketing products around social justice, the youngest generation of consumers could decide to turn around and take another look at credit cards, after all.  

“I expect the Seneca Women credit card to be an extremely profitable venture -- this type of collaborative product offering is a strategy that other organizations should absolutely try to replicate with their own target audiences,” said Reilly.

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