Chase Aims to Simplify Services, Targets Families

The first time a college student is a day late with a payment, a customer service rep at Chase Card Services will be calling. It's part of an initiative called "Clear and Simple" that Chase CMO Carter Franke said yesterday is intended to help not just college-age customers, but Chase¹s more than 100 million cardholders "better understand and manage their accounts."

The goal of "Clear and Simple" is to help foster positive relations and maintain creditworthiness. In the coming weeks, Chase intends to unveil new products and services seeking to provide better tools, more education and clearer, more concise disclosure of the terms and conditions of its cards. This week, for instance, Chase will expand its practice of "proactively" contacting customers who are behind in payments to recommend other options.

Online payment calculators and greater inducements to pay on time with automatic withdrawals and free alerts are also in the works. By the end of second quarter, Chase says it will have mailed simplified disclosure statements to more than 30 million customers that better explain how they can avoid fees and maintain a low interest rate.



All of this comes at time when the credit card industry in general is being criticized by consumers and scrutinized by regulators and legislators.

The credit card unit of JP Morgan Chase & Co. grew 6% in the second half of last year. Chase passed rival Bank of America Corp. to become the largest U.S. issuer of credit cards, according to the Nilson Report. BofA had claimed the No. 1 slot following its acquisition of MBNA.

Chase launched its proprietary Freedom card in September using a remix of the Rolling Stones classic "I'm Free" against a backdrop of butterflies. The Freedom card allows users to earn rewards in either points or cash and to switch back and forth. In addition to the rewards card, a Chase spokesperson attributed some of the gain to a Hispanic advertising campaign launched in October.

Last week, Chase expanded its affiliation with Six Flags to include in-park promotions, loyalty benefits for guests of the amusement parks, and sponsor of all Hispanic specific events. Chase will tout its Six Flags affiliation in statement mailings and e-mails and on its Web site. In exchange, Chase will receive in-park signage, and its promotional offers will be featured on

"These are really enhancements to a partnership we have had for many years," said Chase senior vp Steve Fox. "We'll become a much more visible within [Six Flags'] media network both in-park and in their 'Read to Succeed' program."

As part of its expanding partnership with the park which dates to 1996, Chase becomes the first sponsor of Six Flags' Read to Success literacy initiative, which promotes reading to more than 1.5 million students in about 18,000 schools nationwide. Six Flags operates 23 theme parks throughout the U.S.

Chase SVP Kath Witzil, who manages both Hispanic and student marketing, said expanding the Six Flags relationship will allow Chase to reach a younger demographic but, more importantly, to build visibility with families.

"The real driver is the appeal to families in an attractive entertainment venue," Fox said.

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