Metris, HealthCare Announce Benefits Credit Card

Metris Companies announced an alliance this month with discount healthcare company HealthCare, Westlake Village, CA, to issue a co-branded credit card dubbed the Trilogy Family Benefits MasterCard.

HealthCare will handle the majority of the marketing, including direct marketing, to promote the new card. A direct sales force of approximately 350 independent insurance brokers will work with employers to offer the card as a vehicle for healthcare discounts, which are offered as a supplement to basic health plans or to workers with no insurance, such as part-timers, for $59 a year billed directly to the credit card.

Metris has invested in HealthCare's business, although company executives would not provide details. Metris has alliances with the top 10 credit card issuers and a handful of other companies through which it offers other co-branded programs. The alliance gives it yet another product to sell to its customers. Like Memberworks or Cendant, Metris' economic model is to cross sell fee-based products to its 8 million customers.

“We're going to rely on a couple of different strategies,” said Patrick Fox, senior vice president of business development at Metris Cos., St. Louis Park, MN, which spun off from Fingerhut last year. “We want to measure how successful the direct sales approach will be.” It will be augmented in some cases with direct mail and telemarketing, he said.

Additional marketing plans for the credit card, according to HealthCare president and chief operating officer Glen Uslan, include internet ads and direct response television ads to drive traffic to the online site ( and its toll-free number. Uslan said he will look at general advertising agencies in September to handle the branding assignment, and TV is planned for first quarter 2000.

A long-form television spot also is being discussed, he said.

“We're talking to different production houses about producing a long-form spot,” Uslan said. “The subject matter…raises as many questions as it answers.”

There is a distinction between an insurance product and Healthcare's product –which is a discount purchasing network for benefits including dental and vision care — and according to Uslan, the long-form will allow time to explain the benefits of the co-branded credit card, which also can be used for purchases unrelated to healthcare discounts.

Healthcare's agency, Mustang Marketing, Westlake Village, CA, has developed inhouse collateral and will, in some cases, handle direct mail as follow-up to solicitations. Metris developed the direct mail pieces that accompany the card welcoming customers into the program through Brann Blau, Chicago, its direct marketing agency.

Other avenues for direct mail solicitations might be large organizations such as the Retired Firefighters' Association, Uslan said. He also is exploring direct mail promotions branded by individual companies to their employees, offering the service.

“We have some really large employers who are going to endorse the program, so we'll send direct mail with the employer branding,'' he said.

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