Part of what entices a bank to enter a cobranding credit card relationship is access to customer information.

But having access doesn't always help banks market to cardholders in a segmented way, especially if there is an abundance of data.

Visa is offering issuers who participate in its cobranding program two complementary software packages that it says will ease access to targeted information in a timely way.

The programs, called Portfolio Manager and Targeted Marketing Service, are available through Visa's VisaVue for Partners service.

VisaVue gives banks PC access to mainframe data about credit card spending patterns. Banks can analyze the data and use them for target marketing.

The program grew out of a realization that Visa could deliver information much faster and in a much more flexible and consistent way, said Catherine A. Basch, Visa International's senior vice president for risk management and corporate information services.

MasterCard International said it planned to have a similar software package by the end of the year. Meanwhile, members can request customized data per account from the association's Information Services unit.

Members have made clear that information is important to them, Ms. Basch said. "It's very difficult for them to get at it. We have the ability, because we see so much worldwide information."

Portfolio Manager allows bankers to analyze market share, transaction types, and geographic distribution. It allows them to evaluate how their Visa products are performing at the point of sale.

With Targeted Marketing Service, issuers can perform market research and create a mailing list of cardholders whose previous spending patterns meet a specific market segment, geographic area, transaction frequency, and dollar amount criteria during a specific time.

"What we are enabling members to do with this Targeted Marketing Service is to slice and dice their data base so they can construct very targeted marketing and mail solicitations to their cardholders," Ms. Basch said.

VisaVue operates in a Microsoft Windows environment on a 486 personal computer equipped with a modem. Members who subscribe to the service will receive the software-startup package with initial information summaries. Updated data will be available thereafter by the 15th of each month. So far, 54 banks have requested the service.

Subscribers will be greeted by a screen that Visa calls the launch pad. It will present a number of icons representing various services and products Visa offers.

By pointing and clicking a mouse on the Target Marketing Service icon, members can build a query based on who they are targeting, Ms. Basch said, from six months of cardholder transaction data for the bank. To coordinate promotions with airlines, for example, they might want to identify cardholders who travel a certain number of times and spend over $500.

After Visa receives the query, it finds cardholders who meet the parameters and reports the number back to the bank on-line. Then the bank can change the query, or take the cardholder account numbers from Visa, which they can download into their own system so they can offer target mailings. At this point, the bank goes into its master file for cardholders' names and addresses.

The entire process could take a day, Ms. Basch said, compared to a week or longer before the service was available. Banks can request 25 queries a quarter.

"We didn't have the ability to target before," Ms. Basch said. "Now you can really pinpoint the types of customers who are going to want a particular offer."

Through the launch pad, members have the ability to get descriptions of all the products and services, the pricing, whom they can talk to at Visa, and how to order it on-line.

"It's going to really change the way we do business," she said, adding that at the same time Visa is automating its internal processes to reduce paper flow and the amount of time it takes to distribute information.

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