Chemical Banking Corp.'s credit card customers keep some of the highest balances in the business - even though most of them are using a cobranded gasoline card.
On average, RAM Research Corp. has found, Chemical cardholders maintain a $2,000 average daily balance. Only MBNA Corp., at $2,451, and First USA, at $2,392, do better, according to the Frederick, Md., tracking firm.
Chemical was No. 9 in total card receivables on June 30, at $9.8 billion. That was 32.4% more than a year earlier.
Charles R. Walsh, executive vice president, said only part of that growth came from new accounts for the base business and the Shell MasterCard portfolio. "We've been increasing the average balance per active account in both categories," he said.
The two-year-old cobranded Shell MasterCard program contributed a third of the bank's outstandings, Mr. Walsh said - more than $3 billion, and five million cardholders. "It's been going very well."
ChemRewards, the bank's reward program for its standard and gold cardholders that allows users to accrue points for each dollar they spend and then redeem them for products or services, has been a big factor in promoting balances, he said.
"It's one of many things we offer, and certainly would be a major reason for the average account balances to be growing and for our attrition levels to be less than that of some of our competitors," Mr. Walsh said. "We think that's going to be a major portion of our future growth, which is providing value for different segments of the cardholder population."
The bank also is continuing the Shoppers Edge program that it offers at no charge to Chemical cardholders. The program provides four ways for members to receive refunds on purchases made with the card.
Satisfaction Guaranteed allows cardholders to return items for a refund within 90 days. Price Assurance gives cardholders the difference in price if they see an advertisement of a product for less within 60 days of the purchase. Purchase Security gives 90-day damage protection so an item can be repaired, replaced, or reimbursed if it's damaged within 90 days. Extended Warranty doubles the original U.S. manufacturer's warranty up to one year.
Chemical also is running a sweepstakes this summer for its basic card programs to boost charge volume. Each time cardholders make a purchase they become eligible to win up to $15,000 in cash or a credit to their account. The more cardholders spend in a month, the more they can win. The grand prize of a car will awarded at the end of August.
"We find consumers need more than a just plain-vanilla card," Mr. Walsh said. "We think there are some segments who want value and will pay for it." Because of this, Chemical charges a fee for its cards and has competitive rates, he added, but not the lowest in the industry.