A longtime credit card industry executive has opened a new Web site, CardClues.com, that lets consumers search for credit card products that meet criteria they select.
The executive, S. Jeffrey Baxter, has high hopes for the venture: Six of the top 15 credit card issuers are offering cards through his Web site so far, and he is approaching popular Web portals about offering his service on their sites.
Mr. Baxter, who has done consulting work for major credit card companies since 1994 and before then worked in Citibanks credit card group, has particular expertise in card marketing and cobranding, and his site asks visitors questions about their affinity ties and what rewards programs they would favor. There are also questions designed to gauge an applicants likely credit rating. Drawing from the answers, the site usually lists several credit card offers.
A lot of people are looking for credit cards that give them better service, or that are affiliated with the college they went to, said Mr. Baxter, 45, cofounder, president, and chief executive officer of CardClues.com LLC of Las Vegas.
Mr. Baxter may be looking to replicate the success of William Fisher, the last entrepreneur to start up a site like this. Mr. Fisher sold his site, GetSmart.com, to Providian Financial Corp. for $33 million in 1999. GetSmart, which also offers various loans from dozens of lenders, has become the centerpiece of Providians Internet presence.
Mr. Fisher, who is now chief executive officer of Competix.com, in Burlingame, Calif., said that card shopping sites may not result in a great number of new credit card accounts, but they do provide valuable marketing information to issuers.
Generally, only 1% to 2% of people who come to look at a book on Amazon.com end up buying, Mr. Fisher said. I dont think credit services have a dissimilar experience.
He added: It is a good business because the Internet is a terrific interactive direct marketing channel. When you open up the mailbox and take out offers, none of the senders can see how you respond. Web sites are a much richer experience for direct marketers.
Mr. Baxters site is exclusively a card-shopping venue, but GetSmart and at least one other comparison site, Bankrate.com, give information about other loans, too. Bankrate.com, of North Palm Beach, Fla., has partnerships with 130 Web sites, and a spokeswoman said it hosts 1.6 million visitors a month.
At Mr. Baxters site, CardClues, card issuers pay a fee for each approved application the site sends their way. Mr. Baxter said that any consumer portal operator that wanted to license his service would receive a portion of the fees issuers pay for approved card applications.
Mr. Baxter says there is pent-up demand for card shopping Web sites, but others are not so sure. There is a small niche of the population that shops for credit cards, said James P. Punishill, an analyst with Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass. Most folks dont actively think about it.
When was the last time you called up a bank and asked them what their credit card rate is? he said. People shop mortgages, mutual funds, but they just dont shop credit cards. The world is stacked against them.