Sports-related credit cards have long let college fans tout their loyalties to their beloved Sooners, Buckeyes, Trojans or Ducks. Now, plastic for the sports nut has gone pro, just in time for the kickoff of the National Football League season.
Bank of America has teamed up with the NFL, signing a three-year deal to be the “official bank” for America’s No. 1 sport. The deal, announced in August, expands an existing agreement that included team-branded credit cards, adding debit cards and checks designed for the die-hard fan. The full line of products, including checks, debit cards and credit cards bearing the NFL logo, will be available in November 2007.
It’s easy to see why the deal was struck. Football teams love fans loyal enough to use a bank product embedded with an NFL or a team logo. Banks love team-branded credit cards because fans’ loyalties persuade them to become big-spending, profitable credit cardholders.
Fans must love the cards, too. Bank of America says 4 percent of its new deposit business this year can be attributed to sports cards.
Sign up for one of these NFL credit cards and you’ll get one point for every dollar spent on the card. Then you can redeem the points on rewards that a true fan could love:
• 10,000 points equals a VIP tour at Bank of America Stadium, home of Carolina Panthers.
• 15,000 points gets you two tickets to the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.
• 25,000 points buys a trip to the New England Patriots cheerleader clinic.
• 40,000 points will buy a seat at the taping of the Jerry Jones Show, featuring the Cowboys’ flamboyant owner.
• 50,000 points equals a workout with New England Patriots strength coach at Gillette Stadium.
• 200,000 points gets you two Super Bowl tickets.
The bank and the NFL also hope the prospect of wearing fandom on your credit card will persuade you to consider a deeper financial relationship.
Other banks have similar affiliations with specific teams. And for fans who are SportsCenter junkies, an ESPN Total Access Visa card, issued by Washington Mutual, might be the ticket. It lets fans use their points to buy ESPN media-related rewards. Cardholders get one point for every dollar spent on routine purchases and five points when they buy things on ESPN.
• 10,000 points gets a cardholder a behind-the-scenes tour of ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., SportsCenter;
• 20,000 points lets you watch a live taping of ESPN First Take, Mike & Mike or ESPNews;
• 100,000 gives you VIP access to the ESPY Awards and the after-party;
• 350,000 buys VIP access to the All-Star football game, including a breakfast hosted by an all-star player.
Cardholders also get free concierge service through which they can buy tickets to sporting events, even some that are sold out other places.
The Barclaycard Football Card allows United Kingdom football fans (soccer to those of us in the United States) to pay for season tickets and memorabilia on their cards at 0 percent interest until the tickets are paid off. Amer Sajed, a spokesman for Barclaycard, said in a statement: “By focusing on things that matter to fans, we have made football more accessible with the 0 percent ticket offer plus rewards.”
The cost of being a cardholding fan is about the same as it costs to have a run-of-the-mill credit card. Generally, there are no annual fees and the rate is risk-based. That means it varies based on your credit score from a low of about 9.99 percent to a high of 23.99 percent.
Many of these cards offer 0 percent balance transfers and low interest rates for the duration of the payoff. Fans should read their card agreements carefully before using the card for other purchases; the interest rate on new purchases can be high.
Are you really ready for a football card?
Chances are you’ll get a credit card offer in the mail. If you don’t, the NFL offers the opportunity to sign up at games and other events. Before you sign on the dotted line, Consumer Reports’ Executive Editor Greg Daugherty recommends that you consider the importance of a good credit score and the affect an application for credit can have on it. This issue is particularly important if you intend to buy a house, buy or renew insurance or even apply for a job.
• Credit cards that count toward building up a good credit score are those people have held for a long time. Applying for a credit card at a kiosk just to get the T-shirt and then changing your mind and canceling it can have a negative effect on your credit score, Daugherty says.
• Affinity cards aren’t unique to football fans. Some affinity cards support good causes or help you pay off your house or car. Decide where you’d get the most bang for your buck before you sign up, he advises.
• Look hard at the cost. Some football affinity cards offer reasonable rates, but not all. And some have terms that are otherwise unattractive. Supporting your team by watching and cheering is one thing, but few of us can afford to support a team financially,
What the bank gets
Bank of American projects its affinity-banking program, of which NFL football is only a portion, will drive about 10 percent of year-over-year deposit growth, according to Jake Frego, credit card sports marketing executive for Bank of America. Almost half of the expected 10 percent growth is derived from the sports affinity platform, which includes NASCAR, the NFL and Major League Baseball.
The NFL gets about $25 per customer sign-up, a percentage of every dollar cardholders spend on anything and access to a marketing list, which is especially valuable because fans get tickets through a variety of sources and are anonymous to the league, says Ronald Dick, assistant professor of Sports Marketing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
Financially, the cards aren’t the best deal, but maybe that doesn’t matter, says Dick.
A fan who signs up for one of these credit cards “gets camaraderie, identification with winning and self-expression. I don’t think there is any downside,” Dick says.
“One thing sports fans have in common is they wear their affinity proudly and support their club fervently, and for us to tap into that emotional affiliation is the essence of affinity marketing,” says Frego.