Though Penn alumni may no longer be using dining dollars as their official form of payment, thousands choose to stay connected to campus through their credit cards.
According to Federal Reserve System public records, in December 2009 almost 12,000 people held Penn credit cards, with 272 new accounts opening throughout 2009.
Offered mostly to alumni, these affinity cards display Penn’s logo, which “allows cardholders to express their affiliation” with the University, according to Associate Vice President of Business Services Chris Bradie, who manages Penn’s relationship with Bank of America, the company which handles the cards.
Since Penn launched this initiative in 1997 in partnership with MBNA America — which, at the time, was the leading provider of college affinity cards —the program’s “proceeds [have] benefitted the entire University community,” Bradie explained in an e-mail.
Federal Reserve System records reveal that Penn receives royalties from this agreement. In 2009, FIA Cards Services, Penn’s credit-card issuer, paid a total of $650,000 to Penn.
Additionally, according to these records, Penn receives $1 for every new account opened and $3 for each account whose balance is greater than zero and has had “active charging privileges” for 12 months.
Bradie explained that these funds have gone towards on-campus improvement projects. At the program’s inception, proceeds contributed to fixing lighting on 40th Street. More recently, funds went to Penn’s Sustainable Transportation Initiative, helping to purchase low-emission buses.
Additionally, this program offers resources for alumni-related programming and events, Bradie explained.
Individual card users reap benefits from this program as well. If they have problems or questions relating to their accounts, card holders can manage them with the University’s help.
Though privacy agreements prevented her from disclosing information about individual card users, Director of Alumni Relations Elise Betz wrote in an e-mail that she knows “alumni are very happy with the card.”
Though Penn has more affinity card users than any other Ivy League school, other institutions may have more advantageous agreements with their partners. Yale University had 10,667 open accounts last year, bringing in $1,140,000, and Harvard University made $1 million from its 5,711 accounts, both of which are proportionally more profitable than Penn’s deal.
Bradie wrote that “comparisons between schools are never easy to assess equitably,” however, because other schools partner with different banks and different types of card users. Moreover, factors such as growth and portfolio participation make it difficult to determine equitability solely by viewing the contract.
At the same time, a “critical factor” in a university’s deal with a credit card company is the year it was negotiated. Whereas Penn entered into its agreement 13 years ago, Harvard formed its contract in 2005 and Yale formed theirs in 2007, according to Federal Reserve System records.
Amidst these differences, Bradie said, “we are actually very satisfied … with all the choices people have in credit cards today, we’re proud that so many members of the Penn community carry the card.”Comments powered by Disqus
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