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Fidelity Switches to Visa for Credit Card Branding
Few credit card issuers manage to sustain generous rewards programs because it is hard to make them profitable; their costs are not always covered by the fees merchants pay. Fidelity’s current rewards program has paid out more than $1 billion in rewards since 2003, when it was first introduced. Fidelity has acknowledged that in the past it paid for some of the rewards. But executives declined to say whether this new partnership would improve the card’s profitability.
Visa was accepted at 9.5 million locations at the end of 2014, according to The Nilson Report, a newsletter that tracks the credit card industry. That compares with the 6.9 million merchants that accept American Express. Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express has about 550,000 cardholders, representing about 2 percent of Fidelity’s 24 million customers. They will be issued new Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature cards by July. Until then, consumers can continue using the American Express cards. U.S. Bank will acquire the existing $1.7 billion portfolio of outstanding balances.
In addition to returning 2 percent on all purchases, the new card does not charge an annual fee. The new card will continue the policy of not putting caps on rewards or limits on spending. The Fidelity Visa card also does not require cardholders to spend in certain categories, like restaurants or gas.
But there is a small catch: Rewards must be deposited into an eligible Fidelity account, including the firm’s traditional brokerage account, the Fidelity Cash Management Account, or retirement accounts such as individual retirement accounts .
Rewards can also be directed into one of the four 529 college savings plans managed by Fidelity using the new card.
Cardholders can also opt to redeem their points for other rewards, like statement credits, merchandise, gift cards or travel, but the exchange rate means this is not as lucrative as getting cash back.
The cards will be equipped with chip technology. deemed to make them more secure than cards with magnetic stripes that are swiped, and they will be compatible with several digital wallets, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay.
A version of this article appears in print on January 4, 2016, on Page B4 of the New York edition with the headline: Fidelity Switches to Visa for Credit Card Branding. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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