Duane Reade stores are now carrying “JustAsk” Pre-paid Gift Cards, providing college kids deals every time and saving parents money. In fact, 93 percent of customers save more than the cost of their pre-paid cards after only two service requests! Not only that, JustAsk personal savings assistants can save students time and effort and they’re available 24/7 by telephone, e-mail, online, or smartphone. In addition, JustAsk services include a host of online resources such as how-to videos, recipes, local news and events, local Yellow Pages and TV listings. There is also an “Ask a Question” search engine, which should come in very handy for college students away from home. It comes in denominations of $10 and $20.
WA-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will be cosponsoring the KeepItInYourPants.org debt awareness video contest, “Stop Debt Disease”. Having already selected 5 student finalists, the “Stop Debt Disease” finalist’s video will be judged based on its focus on the growing problem of “Debt Disease” among young Americans and will be awarded a grand prize of $5,000 to fund school-related expenses. This contest is being introduced at a time research shows Americans have almost have one trillion dollars in credit card debt nationally, the average American carries has up to 9 different credit cards while 78% of college students have at least one and 82% of Americans believe household debt is a serious problem. The Service Employees International Union has nearly 1.9 million members.
A new video contest has been launched offering a top prize of $5,000 for the best student-made public service announcement regarding credit cards. The Service Employees International Union and the League of Young Voters are running the “Keep It In Your Pants” video contest. The “it” featured in a video promoting a new contest for budding filmmakers is the growing problem of “Debt Disease” among young Americans. The first-place winner of the “Keep It In Your Pants” contest — open to students 14 years of age and older enrolled in middle school, junior high, high school, college, or graduate school — will receive a $5,000 scholarship for school-related expenses. Four runners-up will each win a $500 scholarship for school-related expenses. Submissions will be accepted until March 12th.
The U.S. House Financial Services Committee held a hearing yesterday on “Credit Card Practices: Current Consumer and Regulatory Issues.” However, no credit card issuers testified. Among those present were Edward Yingling, President and CEO, American Bankers Association who said credit cards provide more services at little or no cost, and with lower interest rates than ever before. However, Yingling noted that the increased complexity of credit cards causes confusion and sometimes results in a difficult financial situation. But, the industry is taking these concerns very seriously and working to address them. Yesterday was the first in a two-part series of hearings on credit card practices. The second is scheduled for the first week in June wherein federal and state regulators plan to discuss the anticipated revision to the regulations governing disclosure for credit cards by the Federal Reserve.
Virginia-based credit card enhancement specialist, Trilegiant Loyalty Solutions, has introduced a new suite of products designed for the 74 million pre-teen through college-age market. The new services for “Generation Y” include a “Music/Movie Incentive,” “Cell Insure,” “Burglary Protection,” “Buyers Appreciation” and more. The “Music/Movie Incentive” offers certificates for hot CD or DVD releases. “Cell Insure” provides insurance protection for lost, stolen or damaged cell phones. The “Burglary Protection” offers protection in the event of a burglary while staying in a hotel. “Buyers Appreciation” enables young adults to extend the manufacturer’s warranty on retail credit or debit purchases for up to an additional year for warranties of one year or less and provides 90-day insurance protection against lost, stolen or damaged items. Other Trilegiant “Gen Y” services include: “Rewards Cash,” “AutoVantage,” “Trip Assurance,” and “Legal Assistant.”
The “Chase United Mileage Plus VISA Card Holiday Travel Survey” has found that 12% of consumers plan to fly during the holidays. The survey, conducted by ORC’s CARAVAN Omnibus Services, also found that travelers would most prefer to sit next to Oprah, among all talk show celebrities. Among college-age respondents, 40% wanted a seat next to Bill Gates. Travelers nearing retirement, ages 55 to 64 years old, would prefer to share an armrest with Warren Buffett. Despite the convenience of laptop computers, only 4% said they plan to do work during their flights.
Credit card reward programs that take a long time to accumulate points do not work well according to a new report. The research showed that 70% of cardholders leave a loyalty/rewards program due to the length of time it takes to build up points. Maritz Loyalty Marketing says the number jumps to 79% in the 18-24 age group. The Maritz Poll also found that customer defection resulted from other perceived problems with rewards programs, such as: “not being rewarded properly” (23%), “disliked the fee” (22%), “disliked the reward options” (20%), “program rules kept changing” (17%), “poor customer service” (16%) and “other programs seemed better” (18%). More than a quarter of this high-income cardholders left a rewards program because “another company’s program seemed better” or they didn’t like the reward options.
A new survey shows that 70% of parents with children younger than college age said they plan to use their debit card for back-to-school purchases and that one in five parents, with children in college, plan to give their child a debit card to help the student manage spending while at school. The “Back to School Spending Index” survey, sponsored by MasterCard and conducted by Harris Interactive, found that on average, parents of U.S. students college age and younger expect to spend $412 this year on back-to-school items. More than one-third of parents expect to spend more this year than last and one-sixth anticipate 2004 back-to-school costs for books, clothes, and supplies to exceed $500. The MasterCard survey also revealed that households with children are more likely to have debit cards than those without (72% for those with children vs. 58% for those without children).
NJ-based CR Wolters Financial Access Systems has signed a deal with First Card Resources to offer a payroll debit card program to Hispanic businesses. Instead of depositing their weekly or biweekly paychecks in a local bank, they must rely on check-cashing services to gain access to their incomes. These services, however, are costly exacting fees as high as 5% for each check. CR Wolters ([www.crwolters.com], 973-383-7811) was founded as a kiosk/ATM consulting firm and designs secure, best-of-breed debit-card programs that streamline payroll operations and link large-scale electronic-transfer technologies with retail sales organizations.
Charter One Financial has introduced the “FlexCash MasterCard.” The new card can be loaded with any dollar amount between $25 and $500 and is valid and usable until either all the purchased monetary value is used or at the expiration date of the card. The card is disposable and may not have any additional value added to it. The card issue fee of $5.95 will be waived through the end of the year as part of an introductory promotion. Charter One also issues “MegaRewards,” “MegaRewards Business,” and the “SmartBusiness OneCard,” a delayed-debit card.
The Certified Financial Planner Board has released its “2002 Consumer Survey” which shows that financial goals of people ages 20-39 have shifted toward managing and reducing debt and away from saving for education, travel, housing and retirement. Almost half of this group (47% vs. 39% in 1999) list debt reduction/management as a current financial goal. This group also expressed diminishing interest in home purchase/renovation (37% vs. 42% in 1999), vacation/travel (33% vs. 40% in 1999) and retirement planning (72% vs. 77% in 1999). The CFP expressed concerns that credit card debt is a growing problem for Americans in their 20s and 30s, and they believe millions of college-age consumers are especially vulnerable.
Jupiter Media Metrix reported this morning the American Express Web site has broken into the ‘Top 50’ most visited Web sites. AmEx is the only credit card issuer to make it into the ‘Top 50’. According to the ‘Media Metrix U.S. Top 50 Web and Digital Media’ property ratings for April 2001, Americanexpress.com logged 6.6 million unique visitors, placing it #45 among the ‘Top 50’. Jupiter says that over the past twelve months, the number of 18-24 year-olds and persons 55 and over who used the Internet and other digital media grew 32% and 33%, respectively, while overall usage of the Web grew 19% over the same period. Jupiter Media Metrix says the combined number of at-home and at-work Web users in the USA during April was 89.3 million.