Slate.com´s "The Big Money" blog posted a visual history of credit cards yesterday--It´s an entertaining little slideshow on the evolution of cards from their earliest, plainest state to the current diversity of species. Now there are cards for music fans; cards sporting alma maters and cards with cute cat pictures on them. Some have carried extra fees for customers. Will this visual smorgasbord thrive or sputter in the new, reformed world of credit cards? The answer depends, it seems, on the fees.
[IMGCAP(1)]The slideshow highlighted one card, the Austin Powers TM Titanium Visa from First USA, which carried a rate that was an entire percentage point higher than the normal Titanium Visa. Customers who signed up for the card received a free video gift of the Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery movie.
American Banker reported last week that despite the drastic changes card issuers will have to make to their business models, they won´t give up their search for new ways to make money from fees. The Austin Powers Titanium card is an example of an instance in which card holders may have known and accepted the fact that they were being charged a higher rate in exchange for the branded card (see the slideshow: It cites a newspaper report about the rate difference).
With the proper disclosures, this trend could not only continue but accelerate. It´s no secret that visual and aural evocations of brand names can be lucrative, and it´s easy to imagine new ad partnerships forming from this. Marc by Marc Jacobs Visa Platinum, anyone?
Update: Check out the Roberto Cavalli credit card, launched this spring during Milan's Fashion Week, here.