With small businesses bearing the brunt of slowing
spending and rising costs, Chase Card Services has launched a range
of business charge cards. Charles
Davis
reports on how Chase is hoping that the new cards will
tap into small business owners’ desire to keep a tight grip on cash
flow.

 

In a bold move in the teeth of a recessionary
economy, Chase Card Services has launched a suite of four different
business card products aimed squarely at smaller firms.

Branded Ink from Chase, the new business card
portfolio, includes four distinct cards to deliver on the unique
needs of small business owners and marks Chase’s first launch of a
pay-in-full charge card – a first from issuers of Visa or
MasterCard.

“We spent hours talking to hundreds of small
business owners, and we listened to what they had to say in
designing these products,” said Mike Nagle, general manager of Ink
from Chase. “What we heard, time and again, was the need for more
control, flexibility and rewards in how they manage their business
finances.”

Nagle said that research effort clearly shows
that the most pressing financial needs of small business owners’
day-to-day operations – access to capital and improved cash flow –
could be addressed in ways that would change the market for small
business cards.

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“We realised that most issuers were taking
off-the-shelf consumer products and slapping the word ‘business’ on
them, and that was the experience many of our interviewees had with
their card,” he said. “We knew from the outset that we had to
redefine the product.”

The result is Ink from Chase’s four distinct
cards – Ink, Ink Bold, Ink Plus and Ink Cash – which can be issued
based on a small business owner’s spending habits, cash flow needs,
and the desire to earn and redeem valuable rewards based on their
preferences.

Flexible rewards offering

Each card offers a core set of
business tools including the ability to earn rewards on all
business spending and redeem for items that can be reinvested back
into the business or for personal use through Chase’s Ultimate
Rewards programme or with a cashback rebate.

“We found that a lot of small business owners
wrestle with separating their household expenses from business
expenses, so we have made it much easier for the cardholder to
maximise rewards regardless of the channel,” Nagle said.

The cards also offer a richer set of online
expense management tools to manage business spending, complete with
online reporting capabilities as well as customised reports on
spending that can be categorised, sorted and downloaded to
accounting software for easy tracking and tax purposes.

Businesses can also issue additional cards for
employees with individual spending limits and custom alerts
delivered via email or text to track employee spending, Nagle
said.

The newest wrinkle is Chase’s new Blueprint
programme, which gives businesses the ability to control and
customise payment terms. Small business owners can choose to pay a
minimum, a larger portion or the full balance each month.

“Tying Blueprint to Ink from Chase addresses
cash flow and capital access issues for small businesses,” Nagle
said. “It’s our belief that small businesses will fuel the
recovery, but only if they have the tools they need to get the job
done.”

Return of the charge card

Ink Bold is Chase’s pay-in-full
charge card with no interest charges designed for small business
owners who want robust purchasing power and spending capacity that
adjusts as needed. Ink Bold cardholders earn premium rewards from
business purchases with no limit on how many points may be earned,
no reward expiration dates and a 25 percent premium when redeemed
for air travel through Ultimate Rewards.

“A Visa or MasterCard-branded charge card was
long overdue, and we felt like in today’s business environment, a
lot of small businesses want to eliminate interest expenses but
still avail themselves of rewards,” Nagle said. “Ink Bold allows
them to do both.”

The standard Ink card was developed for small
business owners seeking business-sized credit limits, flexible
payment options and online expense management tools, with the
ability to earn rewards from business purchases and no limit on how
many points may be earned and no expiration date. Ink has no annual
fee.

“Seventy percent of small business owners’
spending is done through cheques – the same payment method that has
been used for generations,” said Nagle. “We’re revolutionising this
approach by giving small business owners more benefits for using
their card. As the next generation of small business payment
solutions, Ink from Chase gives small business owners the tools to
simplify financial reporting, manage their cash flow and maximise
reward benefits.”

‘Staggering potential’

The potential here is staggering,
Nagle said, with 27 million small businesses spending some $5
billion annually.

“Chase has been focused on small
business for many years, but we’ve never had products this rich and
a real sign of our commitment,” Nagel added.

Richard Quigley, president of Ink from Chase,
said: “The advertising concept illustrates our understanding of the
powerful aspirations, importance of relationships and unique needs
of small business owners which require more control, flexibility
and rewards in managing their business finances. We designed Ink to
help keep small businesses balanced and moving ahead so they can
continue to succeed.”

Ink will be promoted through an integrated
marketing campaign that includes television, print, newspaper,
online, events, public relations, and direct marketing. New
York-based advertising agency mcgarrybowen created the new
multimedia television and print campaign.

The print ad concept features a scripted note
describing how a new printer acquired through rewards points helped
an architecture firm finish a big job under budget. The ‘Architect’
print advertisement will debut in Inc magazine’s October 2009 issue
and will be featured in other major business-focused publications,
including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company,
Entrepreneur, and MyBusiness.

Additional spots called ‘Bistro’ and ‘Doctor’
will also appear in the coming weeks, featuring stories about how
Ink impacts various small businesses.