Huntington National Bank has found another target group for its credit cards -- parents and supporters of local schools.
The Columbus-based bank has targeted Visa cards to people affiliated with two Ohio school systems.
While many card issuers have launched affinity cards tied to colleges and universities, Huntington's offering is thought to be one of the first geared to high schools.
In December, parents, alumni and supporters of the Worthington and Maderia schools will be able to use low-interest, no annual fee Visa credit cards and in return help raise funds for schools.
Huntington has declined to specify the variable rates based on prime, saying it would be determined on a school-by-school basis.
Huntington is pitching the program as an attractive way for schools to earn extra revenue.
An average school with 6,000 parents could earn as much as $25,000 a year from this program, the bank said.
The exact amount of revenue each school can raise will depend on the number of cards issued and the usage of the cards.
The schools can raise money in two ways.
"They may elect to get a fee per card signed up and an ongoing portion of sales, or they may choose to get a percentage of volume sold, and forgo the per card fee," said Natalie Kompa, a Huntington spokeswoman.
Worthington, which is near Columbus, and Maderia, near Cincinnati, are the first in a series of planned school card programs linking Huntington with school systems near the Midwest.
"This not only expands our reach, but it gives schools the opportunity to raise funds through means they did not have before," Ms. Kompa added.
She said the partnership is a good marketing tool for the bank.
"We are a player, and we want to be a bigger player," she said. Huntington has eight other affinity card programs, and a total of 350,000 cards.
For now, industry experts and consumer advocates are waiting to see the results of this and other affinity partnerships.
Robert B. McKinley, president of RAM Research Corp., Frederick, Md., says this is part of a "little trend."
"The jury is still out" on township ventures like the First USA Visa card program with the city of Newton, Mass., introduced earlier this year, Mr. McKinley added.
In it, consumers are charged 6.9% introductory rate and no annual fee.
Cardholders get to use 1% of percent of volume toward community programs, such as the Senior Citizens Fund and the Newton Pride Committee.
Mr. McKinley says the affinity card programs are not serious money-makers for banks or for the average cardholder. He adds that most affinity programs are aggressive programs that charge high interest.
"The consumer may in fact be generating more revenue for the bank than for anyone else," Mr. McKinley said.
Ruth Susswein, executive director of Bankcard Holders of America, a consumer advocate group in Mclean, Va., agrees.
Unless the interest rate is very low, she says, "if the idea is to donate money, the more effective way is to get a credit card with as low an interest as possible and donate the money."