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Continued: As refinancing slows, banks turn to credit cards for growth

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 7, 2013 - 4:38 PM

“We’ve had discussions off and on with India,” Joseph said.

Then there’s the lender’s white-label business of issuing credit cards for other banks. It currently issues cards for 1,700 other banks. “We sign banks every month,” Joseph said.

New offerings

Wells Fargo, meanwhile, is gunning its retail credit card engine.

“We’ve got 70 million customers at Wells Fargo. Only one in three have a card with us. We know they’re using credit. We’d like for them to deepen their relationships with us, and use our credit card,” Beverly Anderson, head of consumer financial services for Wells Fargo, told CNBC in August.

The bank is going beyond its Visa cards to dangle new Wells Fargo cards in front of its customers on the American Express network. Pilots in undisclosed markets start this fall, with a full launch set for 2014.

Wells Fargo is also working with American Express’ Loyalty­Edge group on a program that will let Wells Fargo card holders redeem points for merchandise and gift cards.

David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, praised the hookup. Wells Fargo is trying to appeal to upscale spenders, he said, and American Express is skilled at creating rewards programs.

“They’re very good at identifying what in fact does motivate you,” he said of Amex.

The bank is also tweaking its rewards program for the more frugally minded, so that most customers with a Wells Fargo credit card (a card offering rewards, cash back or rebate) can get their rewards automatically directed to a wider range of options.

According to Brent Vallat, head of Wells Fargo consumer credit cards, lines and loans, those include stashing the rewards in a Wells Fargo checking, savings or money market account, or using them to pay down the principal on a Wells Fargo mortgage or home equity line of credit.

The changes take effect later this month. The bank is mulling another phase, expanding the options so cardholders can automatically direct rewards to pay down their Wells Fargo car loans or student loans. Said Vallat: “We’re continuing to evaluate.”


Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683


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