In a rare instance of an issuer trying to acquire credit-card holders in this environment, JPMorgan Chase & Co. is using a rewards program to encourage its checking account holders to obtain and use its Chase Freedom cards.
On top of one reward point for every dollar that checking account customers spend on the cards, the banking company will now add 10% more points per dollar spent and 10 bonus points per purchase, it said Friday.
The enhanced rewards mean customers who spend around $25 per purchase, amounting to an average of $500 a month, on their Chase Freedom cards will earn around $90 a year. That compares with $60 a year if they do not also have checking accounts at JPMorgan Chase.
Since June of last year, JPMorgan Chase has offered such incentives for checking account customers to get or use its mortgages, home equity lines, auto loans, personal loans, certificates of deposit, individual retirement accounts and other investments.
The company automatically enrolls customers who do not have checking accounts with it in the Chase Exclusives rewards program for a three-month trial period. After that, customers must open checking accounts to receive the benefits.
Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, said it considers checking the "core account" of all of its offerings.
The company is marketing the rewards program through its branches, so most of the prospective cardholders already have a checking account, Kelly said.
"Because we have their checking account already, we know the customer pretty well, and we're using disciplined underwriting to give them credit cards," he said.
Most of the customers JPMorgan Chase is wooing with the program have prime or superprime credit profiles, according to Kelly.
Cross-selling credit cards to checking account customers, and vice versa, is not a new practice, noted Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at the Boston consulting firm Aite Group LLC.
Wachovia Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. all did the same in recent years, Shevlin said.
What's interesting about the new Chase rewards for credit card use by checking account holders is the timing, Shevlin said.
"Few card issuers are aggressively pursuing acquisition efforts," he said. "Most, in fact, are looking for ways to drive more spending among existing" credit-card holders, "levying new fees and charges to cardholders and purging their cardholder ranks of the riskiest customers altogether."
Shevlin said Chase is using its relatively strong financial position to grab credit card market share from weaker issuers.
"Chase is striking while its competition is down and aggressively looking for new cardholder opportunities among its checking account base," he said.
Chase Freedom, which enables cardholders to choose cash back, merchandise, airline miles or other rewards, is the company's most popular rewards card, Kelly said. "It's the primary Chase-branded rewards credit card."
Home equity and auto loan applicants receive up to 0.50% off their interest rates through the Chase Exclusives program. Mortgage customers can choose 1% cash back or a 1% payment against their principal annually.
Chase also gives Chase Exclusives participants higher interest rates on certificates of deposit, waives its annual fee for holders of individual retirement accounts and provides free reviews of investment portfolios.