Card issuers have learned that in order to stand out in
an increasingly competitive marketplace, their offerings must take
on a level of differentiation that would have been unthinkable just
a decade ago. Victoria Conroy looks at some of the latest product
offerings aimed at specific consumer segments.

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ concept is rapidly becoming outdated when
it comes to the development and marketing of payment cards,
reflecting the growing awareness that consumers have around all
forms of payment cards, which in turn has led to increased
sophistication and expectation of the kinds of features consumers
expect as standard on their payment cards.

Crédit Agricole has scored a notable success in the French market,
with the launch of its ‘Double Action’ card in mid-2008. The card
is unique in France as it is the only dual function credit and
debit card available in the country.

Despite only being launched a little more than a year ago, over
850,000 Double Action cards had been issued by August 2009. It has
also become a lucrative source of fee income for the bank –
compared to a fee of €46 for a standard card, Double Action charges
an annual fee of €127.

Moving to Singapore, the affluent card market shows no sign of
suffering in popularity, as evidenced by the launch of the United
Overseas Bank (UOB) PRVI American Express rewards card, which is
available to those with a minimum income of S$50,000.

For every S$5 spent, cardholders receive two ‘UNI$’ points, and for
transactions taking place at selected travel, entertainment and
shopping merchants, cardholders get an accelerated earn rate of 6
UNI$, up to a maximum spend of S$5,000 or 6,000 UNI$ per statement
cycle.

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But the key attraction is a tier of bonus rewards of 10 percent
UNI$ per annum for every qualifying year of card membership.

Titanium brand gains ground

MasterCard recently announced that its premium Titanium brand had
registered growth of 49 percent in gross dollar volume (GDV) across
the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region for the second
quarter of 2009 compared to the year-ago period.

First launched in 2004 in Singapore, the Titanium marque
encompasses an ‘ergonomic’ curved design along with a range of
elite benefits and services, and has now been rolled out to 20
markets across the APMEA regions including China, India, Lebanon,
the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and the United Arab
Emirates.

“Young affluent consumers in Asia are estimated to hold $831
billion of buying power in 2016, and they look for products that
exemplify their lifestyles,” said Jeff Portelli, group executive of
global products and solutions for the APMEA regions at MasterCard
Worldwide.

“We recognise the consumption behaviour of the young affluent is
deeply intertwined with their sense of expression and the Titanium
card programme has been designed to meet their evolving lifestyle
aspirations.”

Other high-end Titanium card launches this year include the BOC
Titanium MasterCard Ladies’ credit card in China and the BNI Style
Titanium MasterCard Credit Card in Indonesia.

Back to Basic for BofA

Wary of trying to expand their mass-market customer bases as credit
losses mount up, some US issuers have decided to target the
affluent rewards-based card segment. The latest is JPMorgan Chase,
which recently launched the mass-affluent ‘Sapphire’ credit card,
aimed at US households earning at least $80,000 per annum.

Among the benefits offered by Chase Sapphire are premium travel
services, access to the bank’s Ultimate Rewards scheme and 24/7
dedicated customer service. A separate product, Chase Sapphire
Preferred, has also been launched, offering enhanced benefits and a
higher value rewards for an annual fee of $95.

Global economic turbulence caused US consumer expenditure to take a
severe knock over the last two years, with consumers rapidly
reining in their spending and cutting back on credit card usage in
particular.

In the spirit of this new age of austerity, Bank of America (BofA)
has foregone fancy reward schemes and exclusive perks to launch the
no-frills BankAmericard ‘Basic’ credit card, which BofA says is a
response to public demand for transparent and easy-to-understand
interest rates and terms.

The Basic card offers one flat interest rate, the US prime rate
plus a margin of 14 percent, for all transactions including balance
transfers and cash advances, which will not change over the
lifetime of the account.

BofA is also hoping to tap into consumer mistrust over bank fees by
not charging over-the-limit fees, instead charging a flat fee of
$39 late payments. BofA has also launched the BankAmericard Cash
Rewards Visa card, in an effort to win the business of the
increasing number of US consumers who are opting for cashback
instead of traditional points redemption against merchandise or
services.

VRL has produced the report, Female Friendly Financial Services. If
you would be interested in further exploring the world of product
segmentation, please contact Shouvik Sen on +44 (0) 20 7563 5615 or
shouvik.sen@vrlfinancialnews.com.