Consumer Payment Card News

VISA Signature

VISA offered up its answer to the ‘World MasterCard’ yesterday with the introduction of the ‘VISA Signature Card’. Associates National Bank began test marketing the card last week and expects to begin national marketing by the end of April. The high-end, hybrid charge card/credit card, offers cardholders two key benefits: a ‘Preferred Access’ program and a ‘Preferred Travel’ program. The ‘Preferred Access’ program offers cardholders VIP access to exclusive and unusual events. For example, VISA says cardholders will enjoy special hospitality and access to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. VISA says the program will capitalize on other exclusive sponsorships. The ‘Preferred Travel’ program offers cardholders automatic upgrades, late check-out and access to special room blocks through VISA’s alliances with various T&E partners. Currently VISA has alliances with Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Le Meridien Hotels and Avis. VISA indicated it is developing an airmile rewards program that may include the option for cardholders to apply mileage bonus points to any line carrier.

FULL STORY:
Visa U.S.A. has introduced the Visa Signature Card, a high-end credit product that delivers a unique set of value-added services and benefits to meet the needs of the upscale, time-pressed, service-oriented consumer. Associates National Bank (Delaware) is the first Issuer of the Visa Signature Card, having completed a mailing to select customers. Other Issuers will be announced in the near future.

When developing the Signature Card, Visa began by asking two questions: “What combination of services and benefits are upscale consumers looking for in a payment product?” and “How can we package these services in a way that maximizes cardholder value and distinguishes Visa?”

“The answer to the first question was relatively simple,” said Robert Stock senior vice president, Credit Products at Visa U.S.A. “Research told us that target consumers care about the quality of features on their card. They want a product that provides a superior travel program, payment flexibility, worldwide acceptance and special benefits that recognize their status as preferred customers.”

Armed with this knowledge, Visa has responded to the second question by delivering a product with the services and benefits that consumers want.

Visa Signature Preferred Access Program

One such benefit is Visa’s Preferred Access Program which will give Visa Signature Cardholders access to a host of exclusive and unusual events where they will receive VIP treatment and hospitality. Visa currently has under development opportunities which leverage its high-profile sponsorships with the NFL, the Olympic Games, Bon Appetit, and several renowned orchestras throughout the country, to name just a few.

Preferred Access benefits will appeal to a variety of tastes and could put Visa Signature Cardholder’s in Miami for SuperBowl XXXI or in Honolulu for ProBowl ’99 where they would meet some of the leagues’ top players at private gatherings. Other opportunities could include the chance to experience the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games with Visa, one of only eleven worldwide partners of the Olympic Games. Visa Signature Card guests would have access to the most popular Olympic events and a superb hospitality program. Active Visa Signature Cardholders win learn about Preferred Access offers through. quarterly communications starting this summer.

Visa Signature Preferred Travel Program

Visa Signature Cardholders can also take advantage of a Preferred Travel Program. Based on alliances with leading T&E providers throughout the world, this program gives cardholders additional priority services and special offers. Hotel partners include world-renowned The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., with more than 37 Mobil Five and Four star, and AAA Five and Four-Diamond award properties, and Top European Hotel Group Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts, with nearly 100 properties worldwide, including their deluxe line of Meridien Signature Hotels including the Grosvenor House in London, and the Hotel Eden in Rome. Visa Signature Cardholders will benefit from automatic room upgrades, guaranteed late check-out and access to room blocks unavailable to the general public when they book through a Visa Signature 800 number.

Cardholders will also benefit through an agreement with Avis Rent A Car that will provide Visa Signature Cardholders with free upgrades to the next higher class of car through Avis’ Preferred Renter Program at no cost. Guaranteed airport parking at 50 airports across the U.S., an upgrade program and inclusion in their Blue Chip Express rental program, are also available through an arrangement with Thrifty Car Rental.

“Visa has consistently worked with its members to develop programs that satisfy its cardholders who, in turn, have overwhelmingly chosen Visa as their travel and entertainment (T&E) product of choice,” said Stock. “The Visa Signature Preferred’ programs are perfect examples of how Visa is leveraging its strengths and leadership position to create quality offerings that appeal to target consumers.”

Additional features and benefits delivered by the Visa Signature Card include:

* No pre-set limit on spending, which allows cardholders in the necessary spending power, coupled with an option to revolve a portion of the charges each month.

* An exceptional airmile rewards program, that allows card Issuers the flexibility to structure the program in a way that best suits the needs of their cardholders. This may include the option for cardholders to apply mileage bonus points to any line carrier.

* Visa Concierge Service, available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week provides a wide range of services including: obtaining reservations at special events and fine dining establishments; coordinating business services; gift arrangements; travel information, and locating hard to find items.

* A Visa Signature Instant Rewards program featuring special offers at upscale retailers and other merchants.

* Visa’s global acceptance network and travel assistance program, which aids travelers in replacing lost or stolen cards and documents, obtaining medical and legal assistance, and managing other travel related emergencies.

“The Visa Signature Card sends a message to cardholders. It says that Visa understands their time-pressed, service-oriented lifestyle and that it values their business,” explained Stock. “It also carries a cache that tells merchants that the Visa Signature Cardholder is a sophisticated consumer.”

“We are proud to be the first to market this exciting new product. This is a way for us to meet the needs of our upscale customers. Further, our business partners are very excited to use this product as a way to recognize and reward their best customers. Visa has done an exceptional job creating this innovative new product,” said Joseph N. Scarpinato, executive vice president, Credit Card Operations at The Associates.

Visa is the largest consumer payment system worldwide. It plays a pivotal role in advancing new payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions, their cardholders, and the global economy. Visa is the only consumer payment system to facilitate $1 trillion worth of purchases of goods and services in a fiscal year. Visa’s 600 million cards are accepted at more than 14 million worldwide locations, including more than 400,000 ATMs in the Visa/PLUS Global ATM Network. Visa’s Internet address is http://www.visa.com.

The Associates Introduces First Visa Signature Card

Associates National Bank (Delaware) has announced that it will be the first to issue the Visa Signature Card, a new bankcard that delivers value-added services tailored to meet the needs of the upscale, service oriented customer.

Associates Natinal Bank (Delaware) is a credit-card issuing subsidairy of Associates First Capital Corporation.

The new card, which will initially be made available to select Associates customers, provides a superior travel program, payment flexibility, worldwide acceptance and a number of special benefits that set the product apart from other bankcards on the market today.

Special card features include a no pre-set spending limit on purchases, one of the most non-restrictive travel reward programs available today called Visa Rewards, and many other superior travel services such as upgrades at world-renowned hotels. Members will also have access to a host of exclusive events, such as the Super Bowl, the Olympic Games and an array of other opportunities, each accompanied by a superb hospitality program.

“We are proud to be the first to market this exciting new product. This is a way for us to meet the needs of our upscale customers. Further, our business partners are very excited to use this product as a way to recognize and reward their best customers. Visa has done an exceptional job creating this new innovative product,” said Joseph N. Scarpinato, executive vice president of Credit Card Operations.

Associates First Capital Corporation is a leading diversified finance company providing consumer and commercial finance, leasing and related services through 2,265 offices in the U.S. and internationally.

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