Notable Increase in Awareness of Mobile App Capabilities, PayPerks® and Cash Access

Every year, the Direct Express® program surveys cardholders on behalf of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. The survey measures the prepaid debit card’s success where it matters most – with the cardholders.  This research is designed to:

  • Track satisfaction with the Direct Express® card as a payment option;
  • Uncover areas where lack of awareness might inhibit proper card usage;
  • Gauge levels of card usage for specific transaction types (ATM withdrawals, purchases, cash back at point-of-sale, etc.);
  • Allow for a better understanding of how cardholders obtain and use cash;
  • Test PayPerks® and potential new features that could be offered on the Direct Express® card; and
  • Better understand usage of, and satisfaction with, the Direct Express® mobile app.

The annual survey results are used every year to continuously evaluate how to improve cardholder awareness of the features and how best to use the card.  The results may also be used to identify future enhancements, when feasible. For example, in recent years the survey results were used in developing an enhanced Mobile App.

This post gives a snapshot of some of the key findings from the cardholder survey carried out in fall 2019 and processed earlier this year.

Cardholder Satisfaction

According to data collected in 2019, satisfaction with the Direct Express® card remains high with 94% of surveyed cardholders declaring themselves satisfied with Direct Express®.

Card Usage and Feature Awareness

 Awareness of card features has remained consistent over the years. The 2019 survey revealed:

  • Compared to previous years, there is a notable increase in awareness of Direct Express® mobile app capabilities, PayPerks® rewards, and Direct Express® cash access.
  • Awareness of each card feature surpasses previous years by at least five percentage points.
  • Cardholders are most aware of the ability to use the card to pay bills, shop online, and make purchases at grocery stores and similar locations.
  • Mobile app users remain more aware of card features than all cardholders.
  • Nearly half of surveyed cardholders use their Direct Express® card to pay bills and use the card to make automatic or recurring payments.

PayPerks and the Mobile App

  • A little over one-third of surveyed cardholders are aware of PayPerks®, but less than one-fifth have created an account.
  • Knowing PayPerks® is offered has a neutral to positive impact on impressions of Direct Express®, and about half say it makes no difference. Mobile app users are more likely to say PayPerks® gives them a more positive impression of Direct Express®.
  • Cardholders are most interested in receiving alerts after every transaction to prevent fraud, with nearly half saying they are very interested. Half of surveyed cardholders are also interested in being able to block and unblock usage of the card.
  • Mobile app users are most interested in receiving alerts after every transaction to prevent fraud, getting a replacement card through the mobile app, and the ability to block and unblock usage of the card. Mobile app users show stronger interest in these features with more than half saying they are very interested in these capabilities.


The survey also helps the Direct Express® program better understand the people it serves by collecting demographic and behavioral data. This year, the survey found:

  • Most cardholders are unbanked. Seven in 10 surveyed cardholders say they do not have a bank account.
  • Half of currently unbanked cardholders had a checking or savings account in the past, however a strong majority were unbanked when they signed up for the Direct Express® card.
  • For the majority of this unbanked population, the Direct Express® debit card is the sole means by which they receive funds and pay for basic living needs.
  • For this unbanked population, the Direct Express® debit card is often their first “bank account” empowering them with access to the financial mainstream.

This essential information guides the development of resources such as PayPerks® learning modules that help cardholders better understand how the card can be used and the importance of protecting the card from theft and misuse. For many cardholders who have not had a bank account or a prepaid debit card in the past, this can be a steep learning curve.


The 2020 Direct Express® cardholder satisfaction survey will be conducted in the fall with responses analyzed in early 2021. Direct Express® will continue to develop in line with survey findings, with new PayPerks® modules and new functionality investigated and, where feasible, commissioned.

Even with the consistently high satisfaction rate of 94%, Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service and the Direct Express® program will continue to strive to improve the program in ways that directly benefit cardholders.

SOURCE: Direct Express®