More Arkansas Banks Offering Instant-Issue Debit Cards

We’ve noticed several banks — Centennial of Conway, Signature of Fayetteville and First Security of Searcy among them — offering what the industry calls “instant-issue” debit cards.

But it wasn’t until Arvest Bank, the biggest bank in Arkansas, decided to begin impressing and activating debit cards at its central Arkansas locations that we realized just what a big deal it is.

Some of Arvest’s branches, especially those that were part of the Superior Bank acquisition back in 2003, require renovations to meet the security requirements for instant-issue debit cards.

“The biggest thing is the Visa regulations and requirements that they place on financial institutions, and it is very rigorous,” according to Ron Witherspoon, executive vice president and sales manager.

“You’re probably looking at $5,000 per location … and when you think of that times 30 [midstate] facilities let alone 250 [companywide], it gets to be an expensive proposition,” Witherspoon said.

Arvest considered the service for several years, finally deciding to roll it out in central Arkansas in 2013. All branches in the region will offer the cards, but probably not until all are ready to go.

Bank of the Ozarks started offering instant-issue cards in 50 of its offices last February, with “next-day” card availability for the offices that didn’t have card printers, spokeswoman Susan Blair said.

“The service has been so successful that we are now in the process of installing instant issue printers in all branch offices,” Blair said in an email. “By February 28, all offices will offer instant issue.”

Having to wait several days for a debit card has become more than just an inconvenience, Blair said.

“We recognize that most of our customers rely on a debit card for their purchases and bill payments. It is important to us for all new customers to be able to use their new account immediately upon opening,” she said. “Likewise, if a card is damaged or lost, our customers need an immediate replacement so they can continue to purchase gas, groceries, and other essentials.”