Credit card firms target Ryerson

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By Angeline Damianidis

Ryerson students could soon see a new credit card marketed to them on campus.

The university has an affinity contract to advertise the Bank of Montreal MasterCard to students, staff, faculty and alumni.  The contract give Ryerson a small percentage of revenue from the card.

This contract expires next March, and the Office of University Advancement and RyeSAC are negotiating with five companies to replace it.

They’re looking for an affinity program that would offer students competitive interest rates and information on debt management.

Caroline Boone, University Advancement’s business development officer, Jack Radford, University Advancement’s interim executive director, and Jason Power, RyeSAC’s v.p. administration, are evaluating five companies — Royal Bank, Canada Trust and Bank of Montreal, and two U.S.-based firms, MBNA Canada and Bank One International.

Five Canada alumni associations have signed with MBNA Canada in the past year, and receive a percentage of each dollar spent on the affinity card.

Boone said one of her goals is to offer students a card with competitive interest rates.

But MBNA’s rates are not lower than other Canadian companies, said York economics professor Jim Savary, who researches financial service companies.

“They’re offering what appears to be a very attractive introductory offer,” said Savary.  But he said when you read the fine print, the rate lasts only six months, then the interest rate goes up.

For example, the MBNA Canada Gold MasterCard credit card gives customers a 6.9 per cent interest rate for the first six months, which jumps to a 15.9 per cent annual interest rate after that.

MBNA also charges $2.75 for cash advances, which Savary said most other credit card companies offer for free.

Ryerson’s negotiators are also looking for a company that will gives students information on debt management.

Power said he’d like a credit card company on campus that offers students more than a “free chocolate bar, or CD wallet, when they sign up.”

He wants a company that will help students manage their newly acquired credit.  “A credit card is a responsibility.  It’s not just free money.”

Power said the other credit cards advertised on campus make it too easy for students without income to sign on.

Campus CreditKit, whose contract is with Ryerson University Business Services (UBS), has pamphlets all over campus offering students five cards with one application form.

Power said instead of the Campus CreditKit program, he wants the school to promote a single credit card to students.

But John Corallo, UBS director, said bringing in a new affinity card contract wouldn’t conflict with the cards already advertised on campus, and there are no plans to phase them out.

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