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2004 Press regarding 3SI's Project:
Universal Savings Bank - Upfront Rewards™ Program

The Wall Street Journal
March 23, 2004
"If you need a computer just to calculate the interest on your credit-card bill, fear not. Now, you can get one free -- from your credit-card company.A bank in Milwaukee has started offering a free Dell Inc., International Business Machines Corp. or Hewlett-Packard Co. laptop to new credit-card customers. The catch? You have to maintain a balance of at least $3,500 for 18 months and pay nearly 10% interest during that time. You also have to have an excellent credit history.

The offer comes from Universal Savings Bank, and its card is called the Upfront Rewards Platinum Visa. While it's not a household name, the executives behind the launch of the card are veterans of the rewards-card wars from Visa, General Motors Corp. and Citicorp.The Universal team is betting that the market for rewards cards isn't yet saturated. Most experts believe that everyone who wants a card that earns frequent-flier miles already has one, since almost every major U.S. airline has had a deal with a bank for many years. These cards usually have annual fees, however, which scare away many people who don't charge much. So in the past year or two, card companies have raced to offer new fee-free rewards cards. This fresh plastic earns cash refunds or points that consumers can trade for free airplane tickets or merchandise such as golf clubs or luggage.

The twist with the Upfront Rewards card, as its name suggests, is that it's dishing out the loot as soon as customers sign up. With other cards, you don't get any goodies until you've spent enough money to earn them.Universal's move makes it the latest in a long line of financial-services companies to use giveaways as a marketing tool, but it also ups the ante a bit. Decades ago, banks would offer toasters to people who opened new accounts. More recently, Commerce Bank, which operates more than 330 branches in the Northeast, has been giving away items such as George Foreman grills and golf umbrellas to people who open checking accounts."




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