Magazine article American Banker

New 'Pay for Play' Perks from MC for the Wealthy

Magazine article American Banker

New 'Pay for Play' Perks from MC for the Wealthy

Article excerpt

MasterCard Inc. is offering to arrange unusual activities for its most affluent cardholders - activities that they would be hard pressed to arrange for themselves.

The Purchase, N.Y., company said Wednesday that its MasterCard Unique Experiences program, designed to court affluent customers, is available to holders of its premium U.S. World MasterCard or World Elite MasterCard products. For a fee, cardholders can charter a private jet, receive a cooking class from a celebrity chef, meet famous athletes, or enjoy other high-end perks.

Leslie Ehrlich, MasterCard's group head for global consumer credit products, said in an interview that customers could "get on a plane and go to the Senior British Open and buy tickets" on their own, but the program lets them have "special access to the event and come to our hospitality event and have an escort around the event provided by MasterCard," as well as meet tournament competitors. "You literally have access to experiences that you couldn't have by yourself."

Unique Experiences is not a rewards program; Ms. Ehrlich called it "play for pay," because participants must pay for their activities, which are often expensive.

The program targets MasterCard's "affluent" customers (those with an annual household income above $100,000) and "super-affluent" ones (those with household income above $250,000) and is meant to help issuers "attract affluent cardholders and grow our share of spend with affluent cardholders," she said.

Other card companies have similar programs, notably American Express Co.

Ken Paterson, director of the credit advisory service for Mercator Advisory Group of Waltham, Mass., said that issuers have long faced "a marketing challenge to clearly delineate premium cards from nonpremium cards."

In the past several years there has been a "proliferation of premium-sounding products" whose names use terms such as gold, platinum, or elite, he said. …

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