Debit Cards Aren’t For Stupid People: Q&A with PerkStreet CEO on Flying Into the Startup Abyss

5/24/11Follow @xconomy

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saving money. The one that always has the Groupon for the restaurant. Always haggles, never pays full price for anything. And they’re the people that talk.

X: How did you go about getting those customers?

DO: We call it using communities to tell the story of PerkStreet. It used to be that a bank would go into a community, build a branch there, and serve the community. We look at how we serve our business in a very similar way, except we do it online. We work with a group of websites to tell a story in their community.

We do some endorsement work, using other communities to bring PerkStreet to them. We probably have 200 personal finance blogs we’ve partnered with. We appealed to this community of people who like to save money. We find them through social media, which I think is really exciting, because let’s face it, banks just don’t know how to do that. We find them through word of mouth, and we also do a small amount of paid media.

X: So are you a Web startup or a financial services startup?

DO: I think in some ways we’re hard to categorize because to be successful, we have to be both. We have to be a great consumer Web startup, because that’s where our product exists. At the same time, if we can’t bring all our financial services skills to bear, we couldn’t have started the company. We have to be a financial services company. Which makes us unique.

X: How has the PerkStreet customer base grown since the debit card launched in late 2009?

DO: If you look at all the banks and credit unions in the country, we serve more customers than half of them [as individual units]. Which is very exciting to say barely a year after the launch.

We give away more than a million dollars a year to customers; $10 million in cash back is not that far away.

X: What would you say to Capital One now?

DO: I would turn it … Next Page »

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  • Gerrit Bradley

    I wish more mechanics of the business model were discussed. After reading the fine-print for PerkStreet and their rewards it appears that you only get cash-back when you use your debit card as a credit card. When a customer completes a transaction this way the merchant pays a much greater fee (based on percentage of sale), as opposed to the customer who types in their debit card number (flat fee). Congress is trying to reduce the fees charged merchants when customers unwittingly use their debit card as a credit card. Banks are all to happy to give back fees collected from merchants. Yes PerkStreet is the best at giving back the most money, but what really is happening is a transfer of costs from a merchant and their other customers to the rewards program of PerkStreet and other banks. If my understanding is wrong please detail how, and explain why there is so much lobbying by the banks to prevent Congress from reducing fees related to debit cards.

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