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The Essential Guide to Payment Card Program Management

12 de janeiro de 2023

How to approach payment program management in financial services—and why it matters for your program profitability and long-term success.

Launching a payment card program is getting increasingly complex—but not to worry, there’s no need to tackle this process alone. As you get the right pieces in motion to get a payments program off the ground, it’s essential you have the right foundation.

That’s why we’re here.

From understanding what program management entails to choosing an in-house or outsourced approach, payment program leaders have a lot to consider. We’re your guide as you look to launch, scale and grow your card programs.

At Galileo, we know the benefits of being your own card program manager because we’ve worked extensively with financial services providers and non-FIs of all shapes and sizes to determine how, why and when it makes sense to be your own program manager. 

Deciding whether to be your own program manager or outsource is essential to your payment card program success. From program launch to end-to-end technical implementation, program management teams are the lynchpin in every corner of your organization’s ecosystem.

Listen to this article instead:

The Galileo Financial Technologies Podcast
The Essential Guide to Payment Card Program Management

The Galileo Financial Technologies Podcast

Program management includes knowing the ins and outs of: 
  • customer onboarding

  • card fulfillment 

  • bank/partner management

  • payment network operations

  • financial reconciliation and settlement

  • risk and fraud operations

  • customer identification

  • data management and production 

  • customer support

  • marketing 

If you’re starting a payments program—or jumpstarting an existing one—you need to understand the scope of program management. From the complete list of players to the required steps before launching or expanding a payments program, these insights can help you manage resources, navigate the complexities of a program management approach, and optimize results.

Ready to get started? We’ve put together this essential guide to answer the most pressing questions you need to consider when pursuing a payment card program management strategy.

Whether it's supplier payments in B2B or streamlining the complexity of B2C program management, you can count on Galileo's expertise to help you decide.

What is payment card program management?

Typically, program management teams are responsible for operating financial product programs on behalf of business and financial customers with the goal of helping them launch payments products and solutions into the market. Duties that fall within the scope of program management range from providing consultative advice on optimizing program rollout and expansion to delivering day-to-day oversight to ensure programs are meeting KPI benchmarks. 

Because the program manager can be responsible for so many vital pieces of a card program, it’s critical to have the right framework and partnership with the program established.

Who’s Who: What Does a Payment Card Program Manager Do?

The 5 Ecosystem Players Who Matter

Identifies, sources and manages program partners including issuing bank, issuer processor, card networks, emboss vendors and value-added service providers.


What does program management look like?

A program manager plays a central role in establishing and maintaining relationships with the key players needed to support a payment card product. Leveraging the right programs and approach can be the key to speed to market. And selecting and orchestrating th team is the backbone of a successful program that keeps cardholders happy and engaged–and thereby generating revenue. 

The players in this equation include:

1. Ready-Made Programs

As discussed, program management can be performed in-house by the brand or can be outsourced. At its most robust, the program manager is responsible for directing all aspects of the company’s card program, from program integration, technical implementation and launch to managing cardholder customer service to ensure program success is achieved. Galileo has pre-approved programs to increase speed to market and avoid long contract cycles with banks.

2. Card Issuer or Issuing Bank

The issuer is also referred to as the sponsor bank or BIN (Bank Identification Number) sponsor. An issuing bank issues the payment card and manages accounts. These banks work with payment networks and hold the principal licenses with the card networks that allow them to issue cards.

In addition to owning the direct relationship with the issuing bank, the program manager is responsible for choosing the payment network, reconciliation, compliance and fraud monitoring, and developing the mobile application interface and UX. Program managers ensure compliance with the sponsoring/issuing bank’s and payments networks’ exacting rules and standards, which touch almost every part of your program.

3. Network Provider or Payment Network

The payment networks collect funds from the cardholder and send it to the party receiving payment, acting as gateways for authorizing and funding transactions made using cards bearing their brand. These networks, including American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover, also enforce rules and regulations that affect the issuers and merchant banks that participate in their card programs. 

4. Issuer Processor

The issuer processor transfers information from the payment gateway to the payment card network, connecting directly with the networks and issuing bank to provide the system of record, manage issuance of cards, authorize transactions and communicate with settlement entities.

Core processing services usually include card activations, loading and reloading value, authorizations for card transactions, lost or stolen card services, and fraud detection and prevention. Processors also offer other services that require secure access to transaction-level details, such as cardholder customer care, error and dispute resolution, and chargeback management.

5. Card Manufacturer and Embosser

The card manufacturer is responsible for creating physical cards and the supporting materials that come with them (such as terms and conditions, a welcome letter, etc.), as well as providing the embedded EMV chips and/or mag stripes and contactless technology (think tap to pay) in the physical card. These cards are then personalized and embossed with each account holder’s information —all in a secure facility. Program managers are responsible for coordinating card production and fulfillment providers to support card and packaging design. 

 A program manager also supports:

  • Compliance Reporting: Program managers must understand the complexities of the regulatory environment and be able to implement and oversee documented processes that demonstrate your program’s compliance

  • Payment Settlement: Program managers support back-office functions such as authorization and settlement and must have visibility into payment flows across all payment accounts to ensure they are functioning as expected. 

  • Fraud and Dispute Management: A key element of payments risk and fraud management, program managers must have the expertise to manage cardholder disputes and do so within the parameters and timelines outlined by regulators.

  • Marketing Services: A go-to-market strategy includes planning for, executing and managing growth and activation-related card marketing activities including incentives and other tactics designed to encourage activating cards and promoting deposits and transactional usage.   


Four primary considerations when trying to decide if you should become your own program manager.


Should I manage my own payments program? 

The size of your organization matters when considering how to approach payment card program management. While smaller organizations may need to outsource some of the program management elements to achieve the level of scale needed to launch, scale and grow a program, larger enterprises are more likely to tap into their own internal teams to launch a program management team. 

Many fintechs want to build their own brand and customer experience, but with the right payment card program management approach, there’s a happy medium of what to manage yourself, and what to outsource.

There is no one-size-fits-all decision of how and why to manage your own payments program. Depending on your organizational characteristics, goals, primary business model and other factors. We’ve summarized a few of the primary considerations here:

  • Company size and maturity

  • Company type: are you a financial business or a non-FI?  

  • Company strategy/go-to-market model 

  • Revenue model

Company size and maturity

In general, smaller or early-stage organizations often outsource some or all their program management responsibilities to a third-party simply because they lack the expertise and resources to successfully launch and scale programs on their own. That’s where it pays to outsource the heavy lifting of payment card program management to a trusted third party that already has the industry connections to streamline your payments program implementation. 

For larger organizations, there can be more ways to achieve operational efficiencies by being your own program manager or relying on a consultative partner to advise on program management best practices.  

Company type

The type of company you are matters for choosing your payments card program management approach. Are you a financial business or a non-FI? For those trying to leverage a payments program to boost other aspects of your business (customer loyalty and engagement, for example), it’s likely an outsourced project management approach is best so you can focus on growing your core business. 

Company strategy/go-to-market model

You must also ask yourself—how the card program fits into your larger business plan. You must match the program against the other aspects of your business model to determine whether to run a program in-house, tap outside experts, or take a combined approach.

Revenue model

It’s crucial to have a clear idea of what your short and long-term revenue goals are for a specific program, and establish KPIs to assess whether those goals are being met. You also must know how quickly you can get a payments program up and running so you can ensure you are monetizing your customer acquisition efforts. 

Where Galileo fits into this decision-making process

As a trusted advisor in the program management space, Galileo offers our clients both options. You can tackle program management on your own or leave the program management to us as you get your payments programs up and running. 

We speak the industry language, and work with all the key players that make a payment program successful. Galileo is here to help you make smart business decisions based on your own goals and business cases. 

Our extensive connections with banks and fintechs of all maturity levels has provided us with the framework to help you establish what success looks like for your own payments program management. 

Learn more about Galileo’s program management offering.

The benefits and challenges of being an in-house payments program manager include:
benefits-and-challenges-of-program-management-galileo (1)
benefits-and-challenges-of-program-management-galileo (1)

How does an outsourced program management relationship work?

When the role of card program manager is outsourced, the partner can own all or some of the program responsibilities and relationships. How much you outsource is entirely up to your organization’s specific needs. In other words, they’ll handle most of the essential steps to get card programs up and running, including technical implementation. Plus, outsourcing can accelerate speed to market since a partner is already integrated with other key players and can launch with pre-approved templates.

Self-managed vs. partner-managed card programs; what you’ll be responsible for under each setup: 

Here are the responsibilities of self-managed or partner-managed program management.


Can I outsource payment card program management to my processor? 

Yes! Many processors not only enable digital payments, but they also offer additional services to support end-to-end payment card programs. As industry experts, processors—like Galileo—often act as strategic advisors to card program managers because they’re connected to multiple types of financial ecosystem providers and can provide recommendations and introductions to smooth the launch of a new payment program, or expansion of an existing program. 

Today’s processors are built to meet the needs of modern banks and fintechs and have successfully integrated fraud and risk mitigation solutions into their payments programs. As part of managing transaction flow and overseeing fraud and risk mitigation, some card processors can also manage the impact of chargebacks and payment fraud.

Is self-managed card program management better than partner-managed?

At Galileo, we don’t think one is better than the other. Instead, the right decision comes down to the specific business goals and capabilities of an organization. We always recommend talking with a program management expert to help you navigate the benefits and opportunities, along with the drawbacks to consider before deciding what program management route is best for you. That’s why we support both self-managed programs, and Galileo-managed programs.

Who can I trust to be my payment program management advisor through these decisions?

Program management advisors enable strategic, educated decision making that’s based on decades of experience building successful payments and fintech programs. These guides have detailed insights to craft program management recommendations that are unique to your business’s challenges and have a deep network to achieve your payment program goals.

It’s important to have an objective program management advisor who knows what it takes to build a successful payments program that’s designed to grow as you scale and onboard new customers. 

Why Galileo? Your payment card management guide through startup, implementation and beyond

Just keeping up with financial industry rules and regulations for card payment programs can be a full-time job. That’s why it’s important to have a trusted advisor with more than two decades of experience helping banks and fintechs develop successful payment programs at speed and scale.

That’s where Galileo comes in. We’re here to guide you as you create a sustainable fintech or payments program by learning the ins and outs of whether you should manage the program yourself—and when to tap in a partner to help. 

With Galileo, our partners can be their own program managers—taking on as few or as many functions as they like—or outsource their program management to us. 

"We help determine the best approach to program management while avoiding pitfalls that cost time and money when it comes to navigating sponsor banks’ and payments networks’ rules and standards. Our team supports setting up back-office functions, including authorization and settlement, customer service, IVR and more."
Reese Giddins
Head of Program Management at Galileo

Choose from full-service payment card program management or targeted expert support

From startup to scale up, Galileo’s expert team helps programs navigate every critical element of program management so that your entire ecosystem works smarter together. You avoid common program pitfalls and save valuable time, money and resources.  

Financial technology management built for flexibility and speed

Count on us for the exact level of support you need. Our team can guide and support you at each step, or wholly manage any – or every – element on your behalf. And, once you’re operating live, we provide ongoing support to keep you achieving your goals. 

  • Tap into our vast network of integrated partners. As experts immersed in the payments and fintech ecosystem, we help you avoid common pitfalls and inefficiencies that cost time and money. And, we put a vast network of integrated partners and deep relationships to work for you, so you can accelerate your program success.

  • Rely on Galileo to fast track your success. We have the experience, connections and dedication to guide you through startup, implementation and beyond.

What should I look for beyond payment card program management?

Ensure your programs are set up for success by considering the other aspects that impact how your customers respond to your card programs. Galileo’s expertise in these other areas expands your team’s capabilities and simplifies back-office complexity, so you can focus on the customer experience. Galileo can help with other key services including:

  • Dispute Management: Our team of dispute and chargeback experts is tenured and highly trained on current payments network rules and regulatory changes. 

  • Fraud Management: Leverage our robust, rules-based fraud detection system that injects specific transaction rules for specific fraud patterns or events.

  • Customer Service: Galileo provides live or automated assistance when your customers need support.

Ready to talk to a trustworthy payment program management advisor?

One size doesn’t fit all, and we don’t think your program should have to conform to someone else’s concept of what you can accomplish. Nor do we think that others should benefit from your hard-earned success building your transaction volume. With Galileo you have choices, because our payment processing platform is powerful and flexible—and architected for reliability and scalability.

Connect with our program management experts today.

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