High-End Onyx Card Finds a Rich Niche
o Texas Dow Credit Union's high-end card still finding acceptance.
o Onyx cards carry very high average yearly spends.
o Card's future unclear in the wake of TNB Card Services sale.
Despite the ongoing economic recession, a credit union created card aimed at higher end consumers has found its niche and is making money, according to its CU creator and issuer.
It's been a little more than 18 months since the $1.5 billion Texas Dow Employees Credit Union rolled out its Onyx MasterCard, a singular card invention modeled on the American Express Card and meant to compete with Visa's Signature Card.
Onyx applicants need to have credit scores of greater than 720 and reap a wide variety of perks, rewards and abilities, including the unique way it blends characteristics of both charge cards and credit cards.
With Onyx, a cardholder with a $10,000 credit limit can access up to three times the line of credit, for purchasing power up to $30,000. The first $10,000 is on a revolving limit, like a traditional credit card, in which the balance due can be paid in full each month or revolve with interest. The remaining balance, or nonrevolving credit, is due in full at the end of each billing cycle.
The card also carries benefits package comparable with other high-end national credit cards. It includes benefits such as concierge service, extended warranty, price protection, purchase assurance, ID theft resolution, and master rental, travel accident and baggage delay insurance.
The card also carries a cash back rewards program that resembles similar programs offered by other card brands, like Discover. These types of rewards are often very popular with cardholders but tend to be more expensive for issuers. "That's one of the cards most popular features," said Ron Wright, vice president of payment systems for Texas Dow and the creator of the Onyx card.
Onyx cardholders can also earn up to 2% cash back on all purchases, including nonrevolving transactions. TDECU also customized a benefits package comparable with other high-end national credit cards.
"We are very pleased with the card," said Wright. "Particularly considering that we really haven't marketed it heavily."
So far the credit union has issued 51 of the Onyx cards, Wright reported, and the Onyx cardholders spend $56,000 per year on the card.
Texas Dow had been planning to start actively marketing the card in late 2009 but decided to put more effort into promoting its Platinum MasterCard instead, sensing the market was fertile for members looking to move balances from bank to credit union issued cards, Wright said.
The CU's instinct proved well placed since Wright reported that the CU's balance transfer promotion had proved very strong.
During the promotion, members could transfer other credit card balances to their TDECU credit card at a 5.9% interest rate without a balance transfer fee, Wright explained. The promotion started Feb. 1 and ended April 30, and Wright called the member response "phenomenal."
Before the promotion ended, TDCU had picked 1,273 new balances worth a total of $9.6 million. Texas Dow also opened 791 new cards and 283 new checking accounts during the promotion, Wright reported.
Significant during the economic downturn, Wright said the CU has not had any of the Onyx cards default, although some members who began with an Onyx card moved to a platinum program after figuring out that they didn't use most of the card's features, he said.