First USA Inc., the nation's third-ranked credit card issuer, is appealing to music lovers with its latest niche product.
The Sam Goody Visa, marketed by Sam Goody/Musicland stores, offers a 5% rebate on store purchases, 1% back on general purchases, and a 5.9% introductory interest rate until June, when it jumps to a fixed 16.9%.
Sam Goody will market the card to more than 500,000 members of its frequent-buyer program called Replay. Sam Goody Replay members get a 10% rebate on store purchases for their $9.95 annual fee. Using the no-fee Visa would boost their discount to 15%.
The chain owns 867 Sam Goody/Musicland stores in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the United Kingdom. The stores sell compact disks, prerecorded cassettes, and movies, as well as apparel, sheet music, portable personal electronics, some computer software, and books.
"The value proposition is great," said Donald Berman, president of Cardholder Management Services in Plainview, N.Y. "The question is, how big is their audience?"
Mr. Berman, whose wife recently received a solicitation for the card, called it "a compelling offer if you are a frequent purchaser of Sam Goody products," but said the customer profile doesn't match up to First USA's "gold card, no-fee, high (credit) line customer."
He said Sam Goody attracts a young audience, more geared toward a classic or even a secured card.
"I have a 10- and a 12-year-old daughter, that's why my wife is on their mailing list," he added.
"Obviously, it's more concentrated in the younger segment," said Jim Stewart, executive vice president of partnership marketing for First USA. "It's one we'd like to get a foothold in."
He said the credit card specialist bank has been targeting the youth market for a number of years, with university affinity cards and on-campus promotions.
"In five to 10 years these will be the gold card holders," he said. Although there's no secured card offer, Mr. Stewart said there are many credit-qualified Sam Goody customers. He said the bank is successful at approving a large percentage of student applicants. Mr. Stewart added that the retailer attracts a variety of age groups.
A Sam Goody spokeswoman said Replay members tend to be over 30 and have high incomes, but the normal shoppers tend to be college-aged males. The Visa program will be promoted through direct mail and in-store fliers.
Mr. Stewart said the program might not elicit the kind of crowds that flock to airline cards, but "we think it can be sizable program."
Mr. Berman predicted the program will garner a couple of hundred thousand cardholders. He said First USA's entrance into cobranding looked like "an attempt to parallel MBNA Corp.'s success in affinity" marketing.
The bank has launched several small cobranded programs in the past couple of years, including the Egg Head Visa, a Walden Books card, and a card with Orvis, the catalogue retailer, and Forbes magazine.
"It's growing into a very material portion of our business," Mr. Stewart said.