Bank of America (BofA), which is already
the largest issuer of Visa-branded debit cards in the US, is
preparing to launch MasterCard-branded debit cards as part of its
new three-year sponsorship deal with the National Football League
(NFL). The new agreement significantly expands an existing
partnership between BofA and the NFL that included NFL and
team-identified credit cards and a sports rewards programme.

BofA will issue affinity credit and debit cards with NFL team
logos as part of a deal that makes the bank the first official bank
of the NFL and exclusive sponsor for the league’s banking services.
With football being the US’s most popular sport, both BofA and
MasterCard will gain huge visibility in the country’s increasingly
important debit payment market.

The bank’s debit cards will be branded as NFL Checking, and will
incorporate BofA’s hugely successful Keep the Change debit rewards
programme, which rounds up debit card purchases to the nearest
dollar and transfers the difference from the cardholder’s checking
account to a savings account. NFL Checking customers receive 100
percent matching contributions for the first three months.
Thereafter, BofA will match 10 percent of customers’ Keep the
Change savings for the life of the relationship, which represents
double the 5 percent match for standard Keep the Change accounts.
The maximum annual total match is $250.

More distance between BofA and Visa

The deal is significant as it represents a further distancing
between BofA and Visa, which is by far the largest debit card
network in the US. BofA’s decision to issue MasterCard-branded
cards comes on the heels of its pricing agreement with MasterCard
in January 2007, and follows speculation that arose in 2005 that
the bank was considering setting up its own card network in the US
due to its dissatisfaction with its arrangement with Visa. However,
that move never materialised.

The sting in the tail is that Visa was originally an offshoot of
Bank of America, which launched the BankAmericard in 1958.