• 11 Jan 2024
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    Article summary


    There are several guidelines to marketing your financial products prior to launching. These include topics such as how and when to reference your Sponsor Bank partner, how to address FDIC insurance, how to characterize your Company, and how to advertise rates such as APR and APY. Many of these guidelines will be outlined in the Company’s marketing policy. Advertising and marketing of banking products should undergo Sponsor Bank review - this will protect your company from consumer complaints, regulatory issues, and fines. The cadence of these reviews can be worked out with your Sponsor Bank. Note that the below is guidance and not legal advice - marketing and references to FDIC insurance should be reviewed by your Compliance Officer and Sponsor Bank.

    All marketing collateral must be reviewed and approved by your Sponsor Bank before launching. Marketing collateral can include any item that mentions either the Sponsor Bank or your Company such as:

    • Websites or landing pages
    • Emails
    • Social media advertising
    • Videos
    • Press releases
    • Digital display banner ads
    • Print media (posters, billboards, etc.)

    The Synctera Compliance team can assist with any questions or concerns regarding applicable laws and regulations as they relate to marketing activities.

    General "Do's" of Marketing

    • Make sure disclosures meet a “clear and conspicuous” standard
    • For digital marketing, if a disclosure is not on the face of the collateral “piece” itself, make sure that the relevant disclosure is no more than one click away.
    • Ensure all text is legible
    • Phrase disclosures in a way an average consumer could understand
    • Make sure that all disclosures properly tick and tie (such as a reference symbol, i.e. “*”)
    • Only make statements that can be supported by evidence

    General "Don'ts" of Marketing

    • Use a disclosure to negate a claim made in the main marketing
    • Advertise a feature that only a very small number of consumers will actually qualify for
    • Advertise a deferred interest product as “no interest” or “interest free”
    • Advertise a product as “free” or “no cost” if there are any of the following types of fees: fees on minimum balance requirements, transaction fees, service fees, flat monthly fees, or any other fees imposed during the regular course of business to deposit, withdraw, or transfer funds - keep in mind that this may include ATM withdrawal fees charged by a third party
    • Refer, or allude to the idea that your company (or Synctera) is a bank
    • Refer to banks in a derogatory way (since we partner with banks) - any references to the account or features being “cheaper”, “better”, etc. than banks must be supported by clear evidence
    • Advertise that account opening can happen “within minutes” - this may vary based on the KYC of the customer

    Use Synctera Cases to notify your Sponsor Bank on any marketing materials you'd like to publish. Details on how to use the marketing materials case can be found here. As a rule of thumb, provide the Bank with at least two weeks’ notice to review and approve the materials.

    References to "bank" and FDIC insurance

    Your Company should not be referred to as a “bank”, "digital bank", or similar terminology in any advertising or marketing materials. This also includes the name of your Company, website language, marketing materials, and all forms of social media (including written by employees) including different languages. Regulators have issued cease-and-desist orders to companies advertising in other languages such as Spanish.

    The FDIC has very strict guidance regarding how they should be referenced and how FDIC insurance should be described. The FDIC updated their rules on signage with an effective date of April 2024. Many of these rules include references to how non-banks such as fintechs should address insurance.

    • References to FDIC insurance must be followed by a reference to your Sponsor Bank in a conspicuous way (no fine print)
    • Do not post the FDIC logo in any of your website or marketing without explicit approval from your Sponsor Bank
    • Do not reference the FDIC as "securing" or "protecting" funds
    • References to Member FDIC should include the Sponsor Bank name
    • If your product includes non-deposit products such as investment products, ensure you are clearly delineating that those products are not insured by the FDIC if advertising in tandem or close proximity

    References to FDIC insurance must be compliant across all marketing channels including social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Regulators have issued cease-and-desist orders to companies with employees tweeting misleading information.

    Regulatory Feedback

    Federal and state-level regulators have issued various enforcement actions such as cease-and-desist letters to fintech and non-bank companies surrounding their use of language and the potential misleading information provided to consumers - these have included the use of social media and even misleading advertisements that were made in other languages. Examples of these orders include the following:

    Sample Disclosure Language

    Generally, the following language should be displayed clearly on the bottom of your site and marketing materials (specifics may differ based on card and bank):

    Sample Disclaimer

    [Fintech Name] is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by [Bank Name]; Member FDIC. The [Fintech Name] Mastercard® Debit Card is issued by [Bank Name] pursuant to a license from Mastercard U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Mastercard debit cards are accepted.

    FDIC insurance language may include the following as an example:

    Sample FDIC Insurance language

    Approved accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000 [[unless otherwise approved by your Sponsor Bank]] through [Sponsor Bank Name].

    Promotions and Advertising

    • If benefits of a banking product are being marketed, it should also include the costs, fees, and other material terms of the product being offered.
    • If there are any promotional bonuses or features being offered as part of the banking product, the material limitations or conditions on the terms or availability of products and services, such as time limitations for favorable rates, promotional features, expiration dates, prerequisites for obtaining particular products or services, or conditions for canceling services should be explained.
    • Avoid potentially misleading advertising. As an example, if the large print of an advertisement lists a product as free, but the fine print details a listing of fees and charges that cost the customer, then this is potentially misleading.
    • Advertisements and promotions should be honest regarding the obtainability of a product, service, and/or interest rate and there should be consistency between marketing materials, verbal sales communications, and how the Company’s financial products or services actually work.
    • Advertisements should refrain from relying too heavily on fine print, separate statements, or inconspicuous disclosures to correct more prominent statements and are potentially misleading.

    Use of terms "free" and "no fee"

    Advertising with the phrase "free" or "no fee" in conjunction with banking products should generally be avoided unless very clearly explained to the customer (and not in fine print). As an example, a banking product that has no monthly fees or minimums is still not considered "free" if a customer can be charged a withdrawal fee at an out-of-network ATM machine. A better practice is being more specific such as advertising "no monthly fees" or "no minimum balance fees" that gives more transparency to the customer. Generally, the list of fees should be visible and clearly displayed for consumer products. A best practice is including a link to a table of the most updated list of fees on the website.

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