Who is the best card issuer?

Over the years, I have fielded many questions from end-users who wanted an opinion on the “best” issuer. My standard answer is that every issuer has both happy and not-so-happy customers. Best is subjective, varying by end-user. Making the best decision involves identifying your organization’s specific needs and goals first, then determining the best match. I used to say issuers differ the most in three broad categories, but now I add two more to the list.

Monetary Incentives

I start with this one to get it out of the way, not because I think it is most important. (I addressed the dark side of rebates last year, including how it can cloud judgment when selecting an issuer.) Sometimes it is challenging to compare issuers’ financial proposals because each might use different criteria. Things to consider are:

  • Number of factors that figure into the rebate calculation and how your program might fare based on historical data
  • Minimum spend threshold to qualify for incentives and what happens if you do not meet specified requirements
  • How large-ticket transactions are treated
  • Potential for a one-time signing bonus
  • Contract duration

Do not just review an issuer’s proposed table of basis points; read the accompanying details and stipulations.

Customer Service

Money only goes so far. The people factor can make or break an issuer/end-user relationship, as well as a card program. A strong relationship, including getting answers and help when needed, increases the likelihood of program success. What is important to your organization in this area? Considerations when evaluating issuers include: 

  • How will they support your program goals and help you identify improvement opportunities? 
  • Will you have a dedicated relationship manager (RM) or a broad team of customer service reps? 
  • Will you have a say in the RM assigned to you? 
  • What should you expect in terms of support and service? What is their role versus your role?
  • Will they proactively offer Commercial Card education and share industry news/changes that may affect you? 


Program management technology should make things easy for your organization and not move you backward. Take test drives of the options and allow your heaviest users to do so. Identify the types of reports most critical to you and ensure the technology offers them in the format you prefer. Again, it is all about your needs and requirements, including those of AP, Tax, Audit, etc.  

Winner or loser? Increase your odds of selecting the right issuer by not making a random decision.  

Winner or loser? Increase your odds of selecting the right issuer by not making a random decision.  

The final two categories may not apply to every organization, but both are becoming increasingly common.

Electronic Accounts Payable (EAP)

If you are interested in an EAP solution, be familiar with the different types. Do you prefer a push model (buyer-initiated payments) or pull model (supplier-initiated payments)? Or do you want to have both available to you? Also explore whether a proposed solution will integrate with your existing finance/AP system(s). Further, what level of EAP support does each potential issuer offer? Training and supplier outreach are two elements. 

Global Capabilities

This might be the biggest differential. If your card program covers more than one country, take care in developing detailed RFP questions. It is not just a matter of whether an issuer says it can support a certain country (yes/no); it is a matter of how.  

RFP Help

This blog post only scratches the surface of card issuer selection. If your organization is seeking assistance with a request for proposal (RFP) project, contact Recharged Education to discuss further and obtain a quote. See also additional RFP-related content.

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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