U S West Communications has terminated its cobranded credit card program with Household Bank and is seeking another issuer.
The new bank would be the third to issue cards on behalf of the Phoenix- based telecommunications company. U S West began its Visa and MasterCard program with the old U.S. Bancorp of Portland, Ore., and moved the portfolio to Household in 1995.
Officials at Household and U S West said the program has not been meeting either company's goals and the decision to end it was mutual.
Most of the Baby Bell regional phone companies made cobranding arrangements with card issuers in the early 1990s, but most of these deals fell apart. Sometimes the rewards given the customer were too rich to let the programs be profitable; other times the partner companies could not agree on their programs' terms or structure.
The only surviving program of this type that appears to be stable is the Bell Atlantic card issued by Chase Manhattan Corp.
But U S West said it is determined not to let its program die. Executives there said they are doing a national search for a credit card partner and are in final negotiation stages with a few banks.
"We're looking for a national issuer who is a leader in the card business and has significant presence in the 14 U S West states," said Gerard Marineau, director of marketing at U S West card services.
Other criteria include "someone seen as a player in technology and someone who can add significant value to our brand and our customer base," Mr. Marineau said.
He said the company hopes to pick a partner by March. When it does, consumer credit cards issued by Household will be replaced by ones from the new issuer. The Household accounts held by U S West business customers will be closed Feb. 1.
U S West, with 25 million customers, currently has about 450,000 credit card customers and hopes to add more.
"The card has historically been a combined credit and calling card," Mr. Marineau said. "We're looking to continue something that can add that kind of value with existing U S West customers."
LONDON-Two companies that license the Transmedia restaurant discount card have together purchased Nationwide Helpline Services, an Australian company that manages member benefit programs.
Transmedia Asia Pacific Inc. and Transmedia Europe Inc.-which are planning to merge in early 1999-said they are paying a total of $7.8 million for the company, whose programs have four million subscribers.
Nationwide Helpline offers telephone help services and a credit card registration program. It also owns and operates Teletravel, which sells discount travel products and helps members who are traveling deal with medical emergencies.
"This acquisition, combined with the group's existing business in Australia, makes Transmedia Asia and Europe the market leader in member benefit services in this market," said Ed Guinan, chairman of both Transmedia companies.
"It also creates a substantial new base of consumers to whom other group products can be sold."