UMB Touts Customization for Small Groups' Affinity Cards

By Aspan, Maria | American Banker, July 22, 2008 | Go to article overview

UMB Touts Customization for Small Groups' Affinity Cards


Aspan, Maria, American Banker


Byline: Maria Aspan

UMB Financial Corp., a recent entrant in the saturated affinity card market, is offering do-it-yourself custom designs to win the business of smaller organizations.

The $9.23 billion-asset, Kansas City, Mo., banking company is working with CardPartner Inc., a unit of the London digital card design firm Serverside Group Ltd., to offer affinity programs to nonprofits and other groups that, because of their size, have traditionally been overlooked by large issuers.

CardPartner said it will keep production costs low for all parties by not preprinting batches of cards or spending money on direct-mail marketing. Instead, groups that sign up can use CardPartner software to design up to five cards, which the groups can then market directly to their members.

"We essentially turned the affinity card model inside out and enabled partners to create their own program," said Adam Elgar, the president of CardPartner and of Serverside.

"Instead of having all the structural requirements for putting together a program sitting inside an issuer, we provide all the elements for putting the program together itself."

George Schmelzel, UMB's senior vice president of card services, said his company's affinity offering "addresses an underserved market."

"It fits affinity organizations of any size," he said, but is intended especially for an estimated "two million micro-affinity programs in the United States."

UMB's program, which offers Visa-branded platinum cards, has been in what Mr. Schmelzel called "stealth mode" for several months but was formally announced in June.

Groups that sign up with CardPartner get $50 per activated card, plus a percentage of each card's monthly transaction volume. No rewards program is associated with the cards, but UMB plans to add one eventually.

Mr. Elgar said his company's revenue arrangement with UMB is "confidential" but that, "if the program is successful, CardPartner is successful."

UMB is CardPartner's exclusive partner "in the U.S. for credit products," he said.

UMB and CardPartner would not say how many affinity groups they aim to sign up. So far they have landed about 30, including Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc., the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and the Oregon-California Trails Association. …

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