Virtual customers of Security First Network Bank have taken a shine to the Internet bank's latest product - credit cards.
Its first mailing, to 1,000 customers in mid-October, netted a 16% response rate, said Eric W. Hartz, president of SFNB-Atlanta. Subsequent mailings have seen similar response rates, he said.
The year-old Internet bank is issuing the SFNB Visa, a no-fee card available to current customers and to those who open a deposit account.
"What's appealing is a large contingent of our customer base who are saying, 'Yes, I love this Internet product. I want to bundle as much as I can on here. I'll put more of my share of wallet on here,'" Mr. Hartz said.
The $41 million-asset bank offers checking and savings accounts, money market funds, credit cards, a Visa debit card for automated teller machine withdrawals, certificates of deposit, and financial research via its Internet site. It plans to add products and services, including a brokerage service and insurance upon regulatory approval.
Though Security First became the first bank on the Internet, it is not the first to market credit cards on-line. Compuserve, America Online, and a number of other issuers sell their cards through Web sites.
Security First, however, is the first to combine the ability to see account activity and rewards program information with an alert to caldholders when their payments come due, said Jeff Baxter, president of S.J. Baxter & Associates in Baltimore.
"If you're traveling abroad and using the credit card, you don't have to worry about your mail and its being forwarded to you," Mr. Hartz said. "You'll know where your credit card bill stands and how to pay it."
Tied to the card is SecureMiles, which rewards cardholders with discounts on car rentals, lodging, and on air fares from all major U.S. airlines, with no blackout periods. Cardholders earn a mile for every $1 charged to the card - 25,000 equals a round-trip domestic ticket. A $30 annual fee for the program is waived the first year.
With a 15.65% rate on classic cards and 13.65% on gold, Security First is competitive, said Robert B. McKinley, president of RAM Research Group. "The ability to view transactions on-line and set up payments automatically has appeal, particularly when issuers are moving to punitive pricing" for late payments.
With only 8,000 or so customers, the bank "is not going to be a major competitor in the card business," Mr. Baxter said. "You have to want to do the whole Internet banking package to want the credit card."