Key takeaways

  • The best affiliates for banks are personal finance bloggers, website owners, and industry experts, as many consumers look to these people when making financial decisions.
  • Offer competitive affiliate commissions based on bank industry standards — but be sure your company can afford to pay out these commissions consistently.
  • Avoid affiliate networks if you can. Affiliate software gives you more control, and lets you build affiliate relationships (note: you'll have to find your own affiliates).

Affiliate marketing harnesses the power of influential creators to drive leads and sales for your business. More and more banks are launching affiliate programs to boost their marketing ROI.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to create a successful bank affiliate program. We’ll cover the benefits of affiliate marketing, best practices for recruiting and managing affiliates, and tips for tracking the program’s impact.

What is bank affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing connects your bank with online creators, who already have an audience that matches yours. Also known as affiliates, these creators will promote your financial services through their own digital channels. In exchange, you’ll give them a commission on each sale driven.

For example, your bank could partner with finance bloggers and credit experts. Whenever one of your affiliates mentions your debit cards, savings accounts, or other offerings in their content, they’ll include special affiliate links back to your bank website.

When readers click on one of these links, they may end up opening checking accounts or applying for a credit card from your bank. If that happens, the affiliate who referred them earns a set reward for their contribution. 

The affiliates get paid when their promotion generates new revenue and customers for your financial institution, and your bank gains targeted reach and conversions from audiences that the affiliates have already built. It’s a win-win!

wise bank affiliate program

Why are bank affiliate programs beneficial?

There are many advantages to embracing affiliate marketing for banks. First and foremost, prospects trust affiliates. Many consumers look to social media influencers, industry experts, and bloggers for guidance about financial decisions. Affiliates lend credibility and trust to your brand when they authentically endorse your products. Their recommendations hold more weight than a sales pitch directly from your company.

Other benefits include:

  • It’s low risk: With affiliate marketing, you maintain control over who you accept as an affiliate partner. You set the commission structure. And you only pay affiliates when they drive tangible sales, so there’s very little risk involved. There are no expensive upfront costs to get a program up and running.
  • Targeted reach: The right affiliates will have audiences that closely match your target customers. Partnering with them allows you to tap into motivated prospects. They are much more likely to engage with your offers since they come from a trusted source.
  • Easy to track: Affiliate software makes tracing leads and sales to the specific affiliate’s promotion simple. You gain hard data on which partners are performing best and driving results.
  • Cost-effective: Remember that affiliates are only paid on a success-based commission model. Affiliate programs often provide a better ROI than high-cost, broad-reach digital marketing campaigns. The high-quality leads convert at a higher rate, too.

Are you ready for a bank affiliate program?

Before taking the plunge and launching your affiliate program, ensure your bank meets key conditions. Naturally, you should have a strong digital presence. You need a user-friendly website with an effective lead capture funnel to which affiliates can direct prospects. Your site should allow visitors to explore products and instill trust in your brand.

You must also:

  • Be ready to keep paying cash commissions: Top affiliates are motivated by earning real money in exchange for their efforts. To attract the best partners, your program must offer cash commission payments. Rewards points or other incentives as sole benefits will not cut it.
  • Know your profit margins: Take time to calculate your profit margins on your accounts, as well as acquisition costs for new customers. This will determine what commission rate you can afford sustainably without hurting your bottom line.
  • Find good-fit partners: Focus on identifying affiliates with an audience demographic that closely matches your customer persona. The right partners will have niche expertise and be able to attract prospects who are genuinely interested in your offers. It helps if they’re creating content in the banking or finance space.

Pro tip: Consider a referral program first. If your bank isn’t quite ready for a full-fledged affiliate program, you may want to start with a bank referral program that rewards existing customers for promoting you to their friends and family. You pay rewards when they drive new account opens. Plus, those rewards don’t necessarily have to be cold hard cash.

Bank affiliate marketing best practices

Once you’ve determined your bank is in a place to launch an affiliate program, here are some best practices to follow:

Set measurable goals for affiliate ROI

Before reaching out to potential affiliates, set concrete objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can accurately assess the success of your program. Relevant metrics might include:

  • Target revenue or sales to achieve per quarter or year
  • Number of qualified leads you want affiliates to generate within a certain period
  • Ideal conversion rate from affiliate link clicks to applications/account openings
  • Minimum number of new paying customers you aim to acquire via affiliates

Outlining tangible goals in advance will allow you to track progress and ROI over time.

Choose competitive yet sustainable commission rates

Thoroughly research competitor commission rates within the financial industry, as well as within other program spaces that could attract similar affiliates. You want to offer lucrative enough commissions to excite the affiliates about partnering with your program, versus any alternatives.

However, you must also ensure the payout aligns with your profit margins to be sustainable long-term. Find the sweet spot that attracts top partners without hurting your bottom line. Based on average account holder acquisition costs, retention rate, and revenue generated, can you afford to pay out a given commission consistently?

Be sure to pay your commission out as cash back – cash is what affiliates want.

Outline commission rules and bonuses

Map out the terms of when and how an affiliate earns a commission from your program. They should only receive payment after driving a bank account opening or credit card application, not just for clicks.

Also, define how long the cookie length is – in other words, for how long affiliates are eligible to get credit for a conversion when someone uses their special link. 30-90 days is typical. And if someone clicks more than one affiliate link before opening an account or card, does the first link click or last link click grant credit for the respective affiliate?

Consider offering enticing commission bonuses, like a one-time bonus for driving major thresholds of new revenue within a set period, or a permanent bump in commission rates after hitting certain customer acquisition milestones.

Spelling out qualification details and opportunities will prevent misunderstandings and incentivize stellar performance.

sofi affiliate program

Find and select affiliates carefully

Next, you have to find affiliates. From a well-drafted landing page to LinkedIn, there are plenty of ways to attract them. Take time to vet potential affiliates carefully and only accept ones who are a great fit for your program and brand. Some signs to look for:

  • Are experts in a niche relevant to your products, who attract an audience similar to your target market. Personal finance bloggers or credit pros are examples.
    • The best affiliates for banks are finance-focused bloggers, website owners, and industry experts. 
    • Rate comparison blogs and credit card comparison blogs are great affiliate partners.
  • Have high, positive engagement and feedback from their audience. This signals people trust their recommendations.
  • Have content, personality, and a voice that are a good fit for the finance industry
  • Have an established track record of driving results as an affiliate, if possible.
  • Have a concrete plan for how they’ll promote your bank when asked, whether they’ve previously been an affiliate or not.
  • Come across as authentic fans of your brand who would be excited to endorse you organically without too much salesy language.

Avoid partners who seem spammy, have engaged in unethical marketing previously, or whose audience doesn’t match yours. A rigorous vetting process ensures you get the best ROI.

Pro tip: Use brand monitoring software to identify creators who are already mentioning your company to discover potential affiliate partners. Or, open and advertise an affiliate application. Be sure to screen all potential affiliates with the same rigorous standards.

Reach out to the best affiliates

Once you’ve selected a few top affiliates you’d love to have to promote your banking services, reach out to them personally with a warm, customized pitch. Explain why you think they’d be a great fit for your affiliate program. 

Provide an overview of how the partnership would work and highlight benefits for them (including how the commissions work). And give them an outline of their key responsibilities. You could give them examples of promotional tactics they could use, or even branded material to use.

Keep language encouraging, and focus on showing them the value of being affiliates. The aim is to get them excited to sign on as a partner.

Have affiliates sign an agreement

Before new affiliates begin promoting your offers and sharing their special links, have them sign a formal agreement outlining the terms of your partnership.

This affiliate agreement should cover guidelines on how they can and can’t mention your brand, commission policies, branding rules, grounds for terminating the partnership, and any other terms.

Having clear expectations and rules in writing protects both your bank and the affiliate. Get buy-in upfront before activating their links.

Don’t rely on existing affiliate networks

Some banks are tempted to join an existing affiliate marketing network to find and access partners. However, this third-party approach comes with notable downsides. Affiliate networks charge hefty fees that eat into your potential revenue – often upwards of 20-30%, on top of affiliate commissions.

They also maintain control of all affiliate relationships and performance data. This means you miss out on learning more about your most effective partners, and can’t access and use data to make meaningful decisions.

 Plus, networks force your brand to compete directly on commission rates to attract affiliates. You’re forced to compete directly with other businesses on the network to secure affiliates, as affiliates can compare programs on the network side by side. Whoever can pay the most usually gets the most affiliates – that’s not very cost-effective.

Finally, affiliates on networks are mostly motivated by the prospect of earning commissions, and not authentic connections. The partnerships tend to feel purely transactional.

It’s better to directly reach out to affiliates who love your bank and who would be willing to promote you authentically. 

Affiliate software gives you more control over your program than a network does.

compare affiliate software vs affiliate networks

Run your program with the right affiliate software

Affiliate software automates the process of tracking and rewarding affiliates, and streamlines the process of communicating and building relationships with affiliates. It’s far more cost-effective than an existing affiliate network, as you only pay for the software and for affiliate commissions – you won’t have to pay extra fees to a network.

 It gives you full control of your data and all other aspects of running a program – no middleman. And your program stands on its own, not next to other directly competing programs.

How to select the right affiliate software? The software you choose:

  • Should make setting up a program as easy as possible
  • Should have robust affiliate tracking and data reporting features
  • Should automate all aspects of running your program, including recurring commission payouts
  • Should promote authentic relationships with affiliates – not just transactional relationships
  • Must integrate well with your existing sales and marketing processes, including your CRM and other tools
  • Must be able to work with multi-step processes (if your sales process is multi-step)
  • Should have exceptional customer service

Referral Rock affiliate marketing software is flexible enough to run both affiliate programs and referral programs. It makes designing and building a program easy for any business, with no developers needed. Build relationships with advocates that go beyond just the transaction, and get set up for success thanks to a dedicated onboarding specialist on every plan.

Keep communication channels open

Don’t just partner with affiliates and leave them guessing how to best promote you. To set them up for success:

  • Provide initial training on your bank’s key aspects so they accurately represent you. Give branding guidelines.
  • Keep them updated on program changes like commission adjustments, new product launches, etc. You can do so through Zoom or a Slack channel.
  • Give them access to contact you via email, chat, or forms, so they can send questions or concerns.
  • Create a private forum or social media group where you can connect.

Proactively communicating with affiliates ensures they have the assets and knowledge to serve as experts on your offers.

Track your bank affiliates’ ROI 

Lastly, use affiliate management software to monitor metrics like:

  • Number of clicks on each affiliate’s unique link
  • Conversions attributed to each affiliate
  • Overall sales revenue being driven
  • Commission payments owed

Crunching this data will reveal which affiliates deliver the highest ROI. You can then fine-tune your program to better incentivize top partners. Continually optimize based on performance results rather than guesses.

Start a bank affiliate program today

Affiliate marketing helps banks tap into influencers to promote offers. The right affiliates bring in qualified leads and sales for your financial products. 

Looking for the best affiliate manager for your bank? Referral Rock enables you to easily manage every aspect of your affiliate program in one intuitive platform. Our financial industry expertise ensures your program will be optimized for banking success.

Sign up for a Referral Rock demo today to see how our platform makes managing, tracking, and scaling your affiliates easy.