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Published: Saturday, 9/7/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Huntington Bank offers choice between rewards, lower interest with new credit card

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Huntington Bank has launched a new consumer credit card that company officials say might be the only card of its kind in the country.

The Huntington MasterCard, which it calls Voice, allows customers to choose between collecting reward points or getting a lower interest rate.

Though Huntington has offered bank-branded credit cards in recent years, the company hasn’t had its own in-house credit card division since 1999. This year, the bank had not had a credit card in its portfolio at all.

Mark Sheehan, director of payments and channels for Huntington, said customers often asked employees when that would change.

“It obviously is a need and a want for our customers,” Mr. Sheehan said. “If our goal is to support our customers in every way they do banking and make payments, it was an easy decision.”

Huntington, which is a part of Columbus-based Huntington Bancshares Inc., said the new credit card fits into its Fair Play Banking campaign that includes free checking and a 24-hour grace overdraft protection.

A Huntington spokesman said the number of checking account holders has grown by more than 30 percent to 1.2 million since the bank launched its Fair Play Banking initiative in 2010.

Voice has no annual fee and offers users a similar 24-hour period to make up a late payment before being penalized.

For the bank, being able to again offer a credit card is important. Mr. Sheehan said Huntington found through consumer research that among people who have both debit cards and credit cards, very few use both equally. So while Huntington did well with the debit card crowd, it was sorely lacking among credit card users.

“We only offered half of that equation,” Mr. Sheehan said.

The card’s annual percentage rate varies based on the customer’s creditworthiness, but in general those who forgo rewards points will have a rate that averages 3 percentage points less than those who sign up for rewards.

Customers who opt for rewards get one point for every dollar spent. They also have the choice of 13 categories — ranging from gas to sporting goods to utilities — for which they earn triple points. Each point is worth 1 cent.

“There’s a lot of providers out there that award triple rewards, on gas, travel, et cetera, but it’s always a multiplier based on the bank’s decision,” Mr. Sheehan said. “We wanted to give the decision to the customer.”

The card is aimed at current Huntington customers, though it will be open to new customers as well. However, Mr. Sheehan said the bank doesn’t have plans to offer the card beyond its physical footprint.

Huntington has 725 branches across six states, including Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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