Vegas.com Bets on Credit Card for Loyalty

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Vegas.com launches its own credit card today, becoming one of the few Internet-only companies in these difficult times to forge ahead with such a committed rewards program.


In a five-year deal, the city travel site partnered with MBNA America Bank N.A., the world's largest independent credit card lender, to introduce a Platinum Plus Preferred Visa card. Vegas.com gets a cut of the transactions rung up on the card, but that was not the main idea.


"There is a revenue component, but our primary focus is loyalty," said Howard Lefkowitz, president of Vegas.com, a property owned by publisher Greenspun Media Group, Henderson, NV.


Usable nationwide, the card lets holders trade points for Las Vegas flights, front-of-the-line club passes, car rentals, meals, spa access, shows, golf and hotel stays sold on the site. Every dollar spent earns a Vegas.com point for redemption on the site.


Vegas.com offers show bookings, hotel and nightclub reservations, airline tickets, tours, attractions, dining, wedding packages, spas and car rentals. A Mr. V mascot also offers insider tips on Las Vegas.


The argument can be made that this program is no different from others such as the Harrah's Entertainment card or even city cards like "I Love New York" or "Don't Mess With Texas." But the Vegas.com card rewards are not limited to a particular hotel property or spending in the casino.


In fact, the Vegas.com card does not reward for spending in casinos. Nor is it capable of money and bank transfers or ATM withdrawals.


Lefkowitz said the card is part of Vegas.com's attempts to build its brand. The site claims more traffic than any other Las Vegas-themed online property. It also records high page views among city and state sites, often ahead of New York CitySearch, Los Angeles CitySearch, Florida.com and Hawaii.com.


Frequency truly is the name of the game. Las Vegas, for example, hosted more than 35 million visitors last year. Eighty percent were repeat visits, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.


It is these repeat visitors that Vegas.com hopes to entice with its card. The company plans to use mail, online, e-mail, print, television and radio advertising to promote its rewards program.


For the moment, print publicity is the focus. The card will be promoted through ads in Las Vegas Life, Las Vegas Golf and Showbiz, a magazine placed in many hotel rooms citywide. Vegas.com's Greenspun parent owns these titles.


Similarly, the card will be pushed on www.vegas.com/visa, with the requisite placements across the site. There are plans to tap the online and mail in-house files, estimated at 2 million addresses each. MBNA also will spread the word to a selection of its 45 million current customers.


Ads will drive prospects to Vegas.com/visa or to call a toll-free number. Candidates must be older than 18 and be a U.S. resident.


Marketing will start by month's end.


Projections for sign-ups are being kept close to the vest. But Vegas.com is sold on the hope that the credit card will build an affinity for its brand with Las Vegas fans -- something an Internet-only brand sorely needs in the absence of a bricks-and-mortar complement.


"It ties people back to us," Lefkowitz said. "The one thing frequent-flier programs did very wisely for airlines was to create a certain loyalty. So that's really why we're doing this, to create a certain loyalty."


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