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LONGVIEW, Wash. – Sometimes a long process of card portfolio evaluation leads a credit union to decide to keep its card portfolio. Sometimes it does not. The $384 million Weyerhaeuser Employees Credit Union underwent such a process and decided, in the end, to sell its $20 million credit card portfolio to MBNA. “We didn’t set out to partner with anyone,” said Bob Kane, CEO of Weyerhaeuser, “In fact, we were very resistant to make such a change. But it became quite clear to us, as we analyzed our credit card program’s performance, that a partnership with the market leader was in the best interest of our members as too many were making other credit card choices for more competitive products.” Kane explained that the credit union had examined its portfolio, which includes a Visa student card, as well as a Classic, Gold and Platinum card program, and found that it just didn’t have what the credit union would need to reverse a stagnating program that had started to actually decline in value. In December of 2002, the card portfolio had been worth $22 million by the end of 2004 it had lost $2 million to fall to $20 million. Weyerhaeuser did not process with either of the two large credit card processors that many credit unions use, Certegy and First Data, and Kane said that the credit union had determined that moving the portfolio to a third-party processor would have cost too much to have been feasible. The addition of Weyerhaeuser’s portfolio means that more than 85 credit unions have opted to partner with MBNA, the card-issuing bank said. Kane said the credit union made the move even though it understood that MBNA would administer the program using its own schedule of fees and not necessarily those of the credit union, including the practice of hiking credit card interest rates when a cardholder is late with a payment to another creditor. “If we had kept the portfolio we would have had to begin risk-based pricing and that is all the MBNA policy is,” Kane said. “Why should a cardholder who has missed a payment and who is a higher risk get the same rate as a card holder who has a very good credit rating?” Cardholding Weyerhaeuser members will be in for a change from their current program. According to the credit union’s Web site, Weyerhaeuser currently charges $10 for going over a credit card limit and $15 for a late payment. According to press reports, MBNA will charge $29.00 for late payments on balances of $100 and $250 and $39 for late payments on balances of more than $250. The card issuer will also raise its default rate on the first day of the billing cycle in which the default occurs and cardholders will have to pay their balances in full by the due date rather than by the end of the billing cycle to avoid late charges. Press reports noted that the monoline card issuer may have decided to change its fee structure after encountering a period of slow growth that caused it to recently offer early retirement to more than 1,000 of its managers. – [email protected]

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