It's amazing how quickly things change in the credit card industry. In 1990, prior to the launch of AT&T's Universal Card, conventional wisdom in the card industry was that the days of go-go account growth were over and the concept of group marketing was fading because presumably all the good "affinity" groups already had card programs. Four years later, the unprecedented success of AT&T, Shell Oil, General Motors, and a host of other cobranded programs has the pundits rethinking their position.

Nevertheless, articles in credit card and general marketing publications recently have suggested that the marketplace may be only able to support a few more cobranded programs and that the viability of the concept may have a limited life. This is wishful thinking on the part of some Card issuers who have not yet developed a value-added, relationship-based approach to their business, whether the value is derived by sheer aggressive pricing, bundling of other bank services, or through various forms of partnership/group marketing.

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