MBNA Corp. is making a play for the rich through a partnership with J.P. Morgan & Co.
The unlikely pairing - the white-shoe investment bank and a credit card company that offers cobranded cards with Garfield and "Star Trek" characters - is part of an online private banking venture, Morgan OnLine, that was announced last week.
MBNA, the third-largest bank card issuer, plans to offer a J.P. Morgan Visa Platinum Plus card with a credit limit of up to $100,000 within the next 30 days, spokesman David Spartin said.
Cardholders will be eligible for investment planning and wealth management advice, portfolio management, and full-service brokerage services - for a fee of $2,500. J.P. Morgan is marketing the private banking service to its corporate clients to offer to their top employees. In general, companies would pay all or most of the hefty fee, while consumers who sign up for Morgan OnLine on their own would be responsible for the $2,500. There is no separate fee for the Visa card.
MBNA plans to market the J.P. Morgan card to a "limited" segment of its customer base, Mr. Spartin said.
Though the customers who would be interested in or even qualify for this card are among the wealthiest, Mr. Spartin said, it is not MBNA's most exclusive product. For example, MBNA is affiliated with more than 1,000 professional organizations for doctors. "Over 60% of the doctors in the U.S. carry an MBNA card," Mr. Spartin said.
The J.P. Morgan card is "a good deal for MBNA," said Chris Staab, a managing associate of Auriemma Consulting Group of Westbury, N.Y. It will attract low-risk customers who are likely to use the card frequently and for big purchases, driving MBNA's merchant fee revenues up, Mr. Staab said.
David Diefenbach, vice president in charge of product development at J.P. Morgan, said, "General wealth advice is the centerpiece of this product."
Morgan OnLine provides a link to MBNA's Web site, where customers may sign up for the card as well as for MBNA's electronic wallet.
J.P. Morgan is marketing the private banking service as an employee retention tool.
"Attracting and retaining talent has become one of the most critical issues facing U.S. corporations," said Ramon de Oliveira, head of J.P. Morgan Asset Management Services Inc.
Morgan OnLine helps "employers stand out in today's competitive hiring arena," he said.