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DECATUR, Ga. – Platinum has been a sterling performer for Emory FCU’s credit card program. The $100 million credit union says for its upscale Atlanta membership (19,000 of them), the platinum card has the right mix of benefits and panache. Emory, based in Decatur, Georgia, serves the Emory University community, which includes its own hospital; Crawford Long Hospital; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; and a number of other health care and related organizations. Among its 19,000 members are 2,700 MasterCard and Visa credit card accounts, says Demitra “Mickey” Houlis, vice president of compliance and e-commerce for the 36-year-old credit union. “We got into the credit card business offering only MasterCard in about 1988, and we have always used TNB Card Services as our processor,” says Houlis. “Our largest group is members with classic cards, but our growth is definitely in platinum.” Houlis points out that implementing the platinum card offering turned out to be an easy, smooth operation. “It went great. TNB Card Services set up our user codes, our associate and card numbers, gave us the paperwork, and we just had to get the business,” she says. “What made it work so well was that they gave us a lot of leeway in how we set up the card. I wanted an introductory rate and wanted them to track it, and it was easy to customize the program. They gave us a lot of good advice.” Emory had been carrying a sizable gold card portfolio prior to the introduction of platinum, Houlis says, and “a lot of people wanted to upgrade to platinum. We saw there was a market for it.” Emory chose not to participate in reward programs on the platinum card, Houlis says, because of the expense involved in maintaining and managing them. As she puts it, “A lot of people want rewards, but if you explain our card to a member, they see that ours is much better financially.” If that seems simple to understand, it is because that is the way Emory approaches its card portfolio and other programs. “Simplicity is one of the reasons for the successes in our program,” Houlis explains. “When you get too complicated, you lose people. We have one rate and no cash advance fees, and we don’t have any of those rules where if you miss a payment your rate changes. We like simple programs that benefit our members.” Going forward, Houlis says, Emory plans to implement a rebate program this fall. The credit union has done well without one, but thinks it can boost the performance of its card portfolio by giving members something back for their purchases. “We’re still looking at the scenario, but it will be based on purchase activity, and if cardholders meet a certain level at year-end, they will earn a rebate. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but we think people are drawn to getting something back.” In promoting its card products to members, Houlis says Emory works with TNB Card Services to offer balance transfers in the spring and fall for the classic and gold products, and also expects to roll out an upgrade program this fall to move credit-worthy classic cardholders to gold cards.

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