Deals That Are Even Better Than 0%?

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Think 0% is tough to beat? Some issuers are actually trying to get below that number.

"Rates have 0% on a lot of different things, and that may not meantthey've hit bottom," suggested Brian Crawford of PSCU Financial Services. "What I mean by that is if you look at some of the other rewards or incentives that are being paired with 0%, such as no money down or getting 10,000 (airline) miles just for applying, you're essentially looking at an interest rate of less than 0%. We may see credit cards go that far in the next wave of competition."

Crawford urges CUs not to get caught attempting to discount card APRs. "Rate-based competition has moved to providing everyday value and rewards," Crawford suggested (see related story). "The fact is, discounted rates and no money down have always been around and always will be, so you have to find a way to differentiate yourself."

CUs must do so without tarnishing their white hats, he reminded.

"You're the fair-value provider, so too much gamesmanship can hurt that reputation," he counseled. "Giveaways, uneconomic deals, credit union members can see through all that. You want to avoid too much cutesieness, or you'll look no different from New York City banks."

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