The recent announcement that the Harvard Alumni Association had chosen the 31,000 member, $409 million Harvard University Employees Credit Union as its card issuing partner was unusual in several respects.
Not only did it represent an affinity card issuing relationship previously held by a bank, Barclays Bank, being captured by a credit union, still a relative rarity, but it also included the rare provision for the affinity partner, the alumni association, continuing to control the existing portfolio.
When an organization moves from one affinity card issuing partner to another, what generally has happened has been that the new issuer, after a period of time often specified in the contract with the existing issuer, starts to issue cards and market them only to members of the organization that do not already have a card.
Members of the organization which already have a card with the former affinity issuer will generally have their cards rebranded and reissued without any identification with the organization.
But the HAA, when it negotiated its contract with Barclays Bank as an affinity issuer, retained control over the portfolio. That meant the credit union was able to purchase the existing HAA affinity card portfolio as part of the deal and can begin converting the cards to its card platform later this year.
“When you're putting the Harvard name on something, you tend to be careful about how you do it,” explained Phillip Lovejoy, deputy executive director for the HAA when asked about why the association had included the provision in the original card agreement.
The association had wanted to be able to offer its members an affinity card without losing control over what financial institution issued the card, he explained.
Barclays Bank had been HAA's affinity card issuer for about seven years, predating his time with the association, Lovejoy added.