Aiming to boost the popularity of its affinity credit card program, the National Rifle Association plans to change issuers.
The Fairfax, Va.-based group is negotiating with Household Bank of Prospect Heights, Ill., to take over the business that People's Bank of Bridgeport, Conn., has had for several years.
The decision was "purely economic," said NRA treasurer and chief financial officer Wilson Phillips.
"We're going to be initiating some kind of rewards program in connection with the card," he said. Also, Household is "bringing a lot of marketing dollars in to try to put more cards into more members' hands."
Mr. Phillips said Household, unlike People's, would offer "a whole range of cards," including secured cards and possibly platinum.
The NRA has three million members and 150,000 cardholders. It wants the latter figure to rise to 500,000 within a year or two, Mr. Phillips said.
The terms of the contract with Household are still being set but "we do know there will be firearms" as a component, Mr. Phillips said.
Cardholders will be able to accumulate points for goods that "will include firearms and outdoor products."
A spokesman for Household International, the bank's parent company, said he could not comment on a deal that has not been concluded.
Mark K. Vitelli, senior vice president in charge of U.S. card operations for People's Bank, said the NRA's decision to switch was "not unexpected because of what they were wanting to do with the program."
"They were interested in expanding the number of people who could get a card, and that meant getting into a piece of business-like secured cards- that we're not a player in," Mr. Vitelli said.
The NRA-People's relationship gained public attention in April when association member George Mougios was frisked by guards at the Connecticut thrift's annual shareholders meeting. Mr. Mougios, who had made a habit of clashing with the bank and its officers, was not armed and complained to the NRA.
Both the NRA and People's Bank said the incident had no bearing on the affinity card decision.
The current NRA card has no annual fee and a fixed 13.9% interest rate.
In the new program with Household, "for current cardholders, terms will remain the same but we will be offering other options to expand the base," Mr. Phillips said.