Chase Sapphire Seeks Contracts with High-Income Consumers

Chase Sapphire card targets big spenders

chase-sapphireJP Morgan Chase, after losing $1.59 billion from its credit card operation, is going after more affluent customers with its Chase Sapphire card, which has no credit limit. The card is meant for households with incomes higher than $120,000 per year.

The card offers bonus rewards of one point per dollar spent, and those points can be exchanged for flight miles, credit or cash. The Chase Sapphire card is available in Visa and Master Card versions.

Blue tries to be the new black

As credit card companies continue to try to target richer customers, the color of wealth keeps changing colors — from gold to platinum to black and now blue, er, sapphire. As more middle-class Americans discover they can save money and avoid debt by using low interest loans, credit card companies are focusing more and more on people who don’t mind (or don’t notice) the hefty credit card interest rates and spend a lot of money.
American Express right now has the most wealthy, or highest-spending, customers. reports:

The Sapphire card will be available on the Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. networks, an advantage for JPMorgan because those cards are accepted in more places than American Express, Smith said. Visa was accepted at 8 million U.S. locations last year compared with 7.9 million for MasterCard and 4.6 million for American Express. American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault told investors Aug. 5 his cardholders on average spend 3.5 times more than Visa cardholders and 4.5 times more than MasterCard users.

Credit cards and the economy also reports on the overall health of the credit card industry and what it says about the national economy:
JPMorgan’s card operation lost $1.59 billion in the past three quarters as consumer spending fell 2 percent since its peak at the end of 2007, the deepest retrenchment since 1980. The division isn’t expected to earn a profit in 2009 or 2010.

The card unit is showing signs of recovery. The default rate in July fell for the second month in a row, to 7.92 percent from 8.04 percent in June, a signal the worst recession since the 1930s may be ending. Charge-offs usually track the U.S. unemployment rate, which fell last month to 9.4 percent, the first decline since the recession began in December 2007.

How to convert customers

Gordon Smith, chief executive officer of the JP Morgan Chase card division, says his job is to convince consumers that the Chase Sapphire card bonus points program is superior to other bonus programs. Chenault of American Express doesn’t appear too feel threatened by the Chase Sapphire card, based on the efforts versus progress of other credit card companies in the past. Chenault said:

“Merchants are looking for customer spending and our cardmembers provide it,” Chenault said. “Despite all the claims by Visa and MasterCard about success in the affluent segment, where it really counts — in the results — they haven’t moved the dial at all.”

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