<p>WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Hold it just a minute credit card portfolio seekers -credit unions aren’t ready to give up hope on their card portfolios just yet. In 2001, it seemed almost fashionable to sell off a portfolio, but 2002 could be different story. Across the country credit unions are rolling up their sleeves and promoting their credit card portfolios to increase portfolio revenue streams. At $62 million, Actors Federal Credit Union doesn’t seem daunted by the competition. With a $13.5 million credit card portfolio and 4,300 Visa cards, AFCU is now launching ActorMiles, a rewards card. Members earn credit toward free airline tickets with every purchase made. “There is no question of selling our credit card portfolio because our whole purpose is to be here for our members,” said AFCU Loan Manager Chris Duffy. “Keeping our portfolio in-house just maximizes their benefits.” Using the ActorMiles card as an example, Duffy made sure the service provider offered as few restrictions as possible. “So that means there are no blackout dates, no vouchers and no airline affiliations so the members decide how to best use their points.” According to Payment Systems for Credit Unions Product Management/Credit Services Manager Katy Slater, sitting on a credit card portfolio is no longer an option, and credit unions have to use such ingenuity to ensure the best portfolio performance while building member relationships. “First the credit union has to decide whether it is going to dial or get out of the phone booth,” said Slater. “That means if the decision is made to dial, hiring the talent or partnering with the people who can help you do it. By fully developing and managing the card portfolio, even in their maturity, credit cards have a proven record of profitability and will remain a strong contributor to the credit union’s revenue streams.” Regardless of the credit union size, Slater suggests that there should be at least one person in the credit union who is dedicated exclusively to credit cards. “As with any product, defining the goal or desired result is critical to measuring its success. What is the objective of offering credit cards? Are you solely looking for sources of revenue and a way to contribute to your credit union’s bottom line? Is the goal to build a full-service relationship with your members, using the credit card as a springboard?” said Slater. “Find out what is it that your members value in a card, try to differentiate the relationships and gather the information to really understand the portfolio then reach a conclusion about how to best position it.” Many credit unions that have sold their portfolios cite an inability to keep up with the thousands of super-low APR offers and premium cards such as platinum cards offered by the competition. However, the $729 million Meriwest Credit Union, San Jose, Calif., managed to not only introduce a Platinum VISA card, but one that featured an introductory rate of 2.99%. “One of our goals is to increase the asset yield so increasing our credit card portfolio plays an important part of accomplishing that,” said MCU Vice President of Marketing Dave Puett. “Within only two days of launching the card we literally had about three stacks of applications each three to four inches deep. It has really been exciting and we have been thrilled with the promotion’s success.” Launched in November just in time for the holiday season, with a credit limit up to $50,000 Meriwest CU’s platinum card featured an introductory rate of 2.99% APR good through May 1, 2002 for accounts opened by December 31, 2001. After May 1, the rate goes up to 9.9%. Opting not to target revolvers, Puett instead looked to those members who did not have a Meriwest CU classic or gold card and those who never used their Meriwest CU classic or gold card. From that point the MCU marketing blitz took over. Pre-approvals were sent via direct mail and were made available on the credit union’s Web site. In addition, incorporated into its CRM system were scripts that would pop up when members called in. Plasma screens in the branch and ATMs also advertised the new platinum product. The card also proved to be an integral part of the credit union’s business development outreach program. The $850 million Richmond, Virginia-based Virginia Credit Union has also experienced a platinum level of success with its recent promotion -adding an unprecedented 2,800 new credit card accounts and over $25 million in balances. “We usually run our transfer promotions in the first quarter to take advantage of members’ after-holiday credit consolidation,” said VACU Senior Vice President of Marketing Jean Holman. “We were surprised by the success of this fall promotion.” According to Holman the real differentiators in this promotion were the rate lock-in of 7.99% until the transferred amount is paid in full and the convenience of making transfers over the phone, on the Web site, on the application or by using convenience checks. Though the pricing offer was good on any of the $850 million credit union’s credit card types, the promotion increased the number of platinum cards by 32%. “This has been a major win in two ways,” said Holman. “Our members benefit from a great rate and the credit union acquires much needed loan assets.” [email protected]</p>

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