American Express Property Casualty, which has until recently targeted mainly its parent company's cardholders, says it is succeeding at a strategy often used by banks - marketing through a large retailer.
The Green Bay, Wis., subsidiary of American Express Co. has been pushing its insurance products on Costco Wholesale Corp.'s Web site for six months, offering Costco members discounts of up to 20% on its auto and home insurance.
The program, which began as a pilot in March and was formally rolled Aug. 8 out to 12 million Costco members in 22 states plus the District of Columbia, builds on an Amex-Costco relationship - the two already had a cobranded card that gives customers rebates depending on how much they spend. Amex is also the only major credit card that Costco accepts.
American Express Property Casualty president Kenneth Ciak said the response from Costco members has been strong - 7,000 to 7,500 new policies were sold through Costco during the pilot stage, he said.
Costco, of Issaquah, Wash., makes several other financial services products available at special rates to its members. For instance, consumer members are eligible for mortgage deals from LendingTree Inc., and its small-business members can apply for loans from KeyBank. Costco also offers group health insurance for small businesses in Washington and Oregon.
The Amex policies can be bought over the phone and through a link on Costco's Web site. Specials include a free year of roadside assistance for Costco small-business members buying an Amex auto policy.
Valerie Jordan, the president of Jordan & Jordan Associates, a consulting firm in Belchertown, Mass., questioned whether Costco's discount-seeking membership was the right market for American Express, which is best known as a purveyor of high-end cards.
But Mr. Ciak said Costco members and Amex are a good match. Members who apply for insurance have a high average home value, he said, and are more likely than the general population to buy personal umbrella insurance - popular among wealthy people with assets to protect - along with other policies.
In fact, an Amex spokeswoman said it launched its Costco cobranded card because many of its cardholders had said in surveys that they wanted to use their Amex cards at the warehouse chain.
American Express Property Casualty is on track to sell $185.6 million of auto, homeowners, renters, condominium, and personal umbrella liability insurance this year, Mr. Ciak said. Its goal is to reach sales of $1 billion of a year in the next five years.