Bank One and Mellon Bank are coming out with new cards, while Dean Witter, Discover & Co. is teaming up with NationsBank to market the authoritatively named Prime Option MasterCard.
Coming into an already busy field, with players that include the likes of General Motors Corp. and Apple Computer, the new entries have raised the question of just how many more cards can the mar ket absorb?
Maybe quite a few more if the approach isn't too scattershot or without perceived added value.
"Programs now are pretty well targeted," said John Russell, chief communications officer at Columbus, Ohio-based Bank One, who's overseeing this month's launch of Travel Plus Visa, a card offering an airline mile for every dollar charged.
"We have the ability to aim directly at people who should be interested in the product in stead of bombarding [everyone] with mass media," he said.
Another advantage going for Travel Plus: A mere total of 12,000 to 20,000 miles is good for round-trip tickets on any major airline at any time. It will be supported by direct mail and telemarketing efforts.
Also this month, Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank will start testing CornerStone MasterCard, which offers to rebate all interest charges if customers use the card for 20 years. Those less loyal get 10% of their interest rebated after just two years. Mellon plans a national rollout by yearend, including TV and print ads; an introductory campaign in a handful of markets is expected to start Feb. 15, via Werner Chepelsky & Partners.
"What we're trying to do now is really respond to our understanding of what customers' expectations are out there," said Rich LaRosa, VP-credit card programs at Mellon. "The business has been loaded with discounting and rebate programs, and we have to build up expectations in customers' minds of what translates to value."
Dean Witter, Discover & Co., River Woods, Ill., and NationsBank, Charlotte, N.C., have their own gimmick going for Prime Option MasterCard, which bows this month with a TV and print campaign from Bender Browning Dolby & Sanderson, Chicago, themed "Don't you rate Prime Option?"
The hook is no annual fee and a low 6% rate for purchases up to 60 days after they're made; then the rate rises to 15.9%. Newspaper ads, also in selected markets, begin Feb. 13.