Premium Watch: Financial Services Opt for Options
Coke or Pepsi? Window or aisle? Cash or credit? Paper or plastic? Each day, consumers are presented with hundreds of choices. In February, mailers in the financial services sector opted to add one more option to that ever-growing list, sweetening their efforts not with traditional premiums, but with the freedom of choice.
Discover, ING and Bank One were all in the mail in February with the incentive that features the most freedom of all: cash. Discover Platinum offered to part with a $50 cash-back bonus after a new customer completes his first card transaction (Archive code #540-174144-0502A); ING deposited $25 in new accounts (Archive code #536-640022-0502A); and Bank One started off One Checking direct-deposit accounts with a $50 gift (Archive code #536-171588-0502).
Featuring less versatility and less money, Capital One offered existing customers a $10 Amazon.com gift certificate when they sign up for its free automatic bill payment program (Archive code #550-329024-0502A). The denomination of choice for Bank One's Starbucks affinity card was $10 as well, which offered prospects "Duetto Dollars" when they open a Starbucks Visa card account (Archive code #541-171588-0502B). Citibank promoted a similar offer that is not quite as clear: Make a purchase with your new Citibank Diamond Preferred Rewards card and receive a $100 gift certificate to your choice of stores, including The Home Depot, Best Buy, The Sharper Image and Gap (Archive code #540-171691-0502A). The fine print, however, reveals that the real incentive is actually 10,000 bonus points that can be redeemed for a gift certificate. In this case, the customer gets to choose not only what his gift will be, but whether he even wants the gift in the first place.
Bank One also was in the mail with its Disney affinity card control offer: a choice between a Disney DVD and a $15 gift card to the Disney Store (Archive code #541-171588-0502A). The Who's Mailing What! Archive began receiving efforts for this Disney card in April 2003; this premium came along in October 2003. While the offer has remained the same, Bank One has changed up the format; for more than a year, the effort mailed as a glossy, four-color 6" x 9" envelope package, but since September 2004, it has been mailing in a plain, white #10 envelope bearing only the Disney logo in the return address.
Even MBNA, which has offered such premiums as T-shirts, two-way radios, hats and, as reported in the May 2004 edition of this column, fleece blankets ("Financial Services Prospects Offered a Blanket Deal"), seems to be preferring choice as of late. The Archive has not received a single premium from the mailer since Octobera busy month that brought a number of MBNA premiums, including a team T-shirt and blanket from its NFL affinity card. As a matter of course, in February, MBNA mailed the same NFL affinity card effort, sans the shirt and blanket premium, and in their stead offering 4,000 bonus points after a qualifying ($75) purchase (Archive code #541-174025-0502A).
February also brought two other MBNA efforts that were incentivized with choice: a two-for-one plane, cruise or hotel voucher when prospects charge $75 to their newly minted MBNA Working Assets affinity card (Archive code #541-174025-0502B); and two round-trip tickets to Hawaii, Mexico or London for each cardholder on a company's MBNA Platinum Plus for Business account (Archive code #544-174025-0502).
Of the more conventional premiums, since September 2004, AT&T Universal's preferred gift has been a free DVD player with account approval (Archive code #540-175420-0502). February marked only the second time the Archive has seen a premium from Advanta, which offered 250 free business cards just for applying for its Platinum for Business card (Archive code #544-174665-0502).
And you can't talk about financial services premiums without looking at local bank branches, which usually are the biggest proponents of such wares within the sector. Some recent offers include:
<Pyrex bowls from Colorado's TCF Bank (Archive code #536-173604-0501);
<Tool bag (Archive code #536-173602-0501A) and messenger bag (Archive code #536-173602-0502) from Connecticut's Webster Bank;
<Portable radio from New York-based HSBC (Archive code #536-641048-0501); and
<$10 Blockbuster card from New York's Independence Community Bank (Archive code #536-697942-0501B).