GM Unveils 'Flexible Earnings' Credit Card

Rewards Can Be Applied to Any Car Purchase

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- With its employee-discount program set to end this week, General Motors Corp. is offering consumers a credit card with cash rewards for those who buy its cars -- or a competitive vehicle.

The GM Flexible Earnings Card, co-branded with HSBC Bank and MasterCard, gives customers 1% cash back on credit-card purchases or the option to redeem that cash to buy a new vehicle from any manufacturer. Cardholders selecting a GM model get triple the rewards, or 3%, applied to their purchase or lease. Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer and Pontiac brands are covered under the program; Saab and Saturn aren't.

The rewards will range from $1,000 to $3,500, depending on the vehicle. The new card joins the GM Card, which has some 6 million card members, said Jack Bowen, general director-customer relationship management at the automaker.

The auto giant is trying to wean consumers off incentives, which GM has advertised across its vehicle brands since fall 2001. GM's current Employee Discount deals expire Sept. 30.

Increasing demand
Mr. Bowen said GM and HSBC jointly commissioned research of non-GM owners, or "those not yet committed to GM," by the Cambridge Group, Chicago. It found that a flexible-rewards card would help increase demand.

Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, Wenham, Mass., handles and created a direct mailing that will go out to "well over 10 million people," Mr. Bowen said. No other advertising is planned, although a Web site, gmflexcard.com, goes live Sept. 29. The site will offer information about the card, let cardholders check or redeem their earnings and shop or buy GM vehicles.

In early 2002, Mr. Bowen oversaw a GM Card direct-mail program to members who indicated they might be shopping for a new vehicle then. Members could add their card savings for new-vehicle purchases to the automaker's broader $2,002 "Overdrive" deal. Within two weeks, GM recorded four of its top 10 new-vehicle sales days in the history of its credit card.

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