The 5/22 mail brought a letter from AT&T Universal Card. I almost didn’t open it because it was preprinted “OPEN IMMEDIATELY: Important Account Notice” and had a preprinted first class indicia. Obviously, another of the cash advance check mailings I receive 4x a year or so.
But no. The letter inside began: “Citi, the issuer of your AT&T Universal Cash Rewards Card, has decided to discontinue this credit card for business reasons. Therefore, your account will be closed on 6/30/06. This letter outlines important information about he closing of your account.” And so it did… several single spaced paragraphs to inform me what happens to my cardmember benefits (mostly going away) and outstanding balance (it’s still there) before a final “thank you for your business” at the end.
Now let’s see here. I’ve had this card for maybe 20 years. As I recall it was a pioneer—the first high limit, fee free MasterCard. Over the years it changed hands several times and various institutions paid what would add up to several billion dollars for the customer portfolio and brand identification. And now suddenly it’s worth no more than a curt “thank you for your business” ?
Ironically, the very same day brought an email from AT&T Universal Card. They want to let me know that I should refinance my home at a low home equity rate through them because, as a Universal Card customer, “you’ve earned it!”
That quotidian email is an example of why marketers believe business relationships have value—especially when you have the kind of relationship that gives you legal permission to send an email solicitation to your customer list. Yet, I’m assuming this will be the last I hear from my friends at Universal Card. (The deadline for my loan application is 6/30, which makes sense because my card relationship goes kablooie then.)
Citi evidently believes the Universal Card no longer has any business value. I disagree. Anybody want to join me and take up a collection to buy the brand? I’m hoping $1000 will do it.