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Mercedes Does Deal With American Express

Automaker lines up expansive affinity card deal with AmEx.

by on Aug.23, 2011

Mercedes puts its name on an AmEx card.

Premium credit card provider American Express has inked an affinity deal with equally upscale automaker Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz products.

Affinity cards have become a hot ticket in the marketing world, hotels, retailers and other businesses planting their name on credit cards that increase loyalty and visibility while offering some sort of perk to consumers.

Such deals have become widespread with the mainstream Visa and MasterCard credit card services, but AmericanExpress has until now limited itself to just five co-branding deals.  And those partnerships, which include the CostCo warehouse chain and Delta Airlines, have far more limited perks than a conventional AmEx card.  The financial service company’s sixth deal, which will carry the Mercedes-Benz co-brand, will offer all the benefits of a conventional American Express card – and more, officials told TheDetroitBureau.com.

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That includes the Membership Rewards program, where customers accumulate points that can be used for travel or purchases – and in this case, they get increased points for specific purchases, such as a five-times bonus on spending at a Mercedes dealership.  The Platinum card will offer a concierge service and access to variety airline clubs while traveling.

Both the basic and Platinum Mercedes-Benz AmEx cards will offer bonus money for the purchase or lease of one of the maker’s automobiles.  And current customers will have fees of as much as $500 waived if they exceed the number of miles specified in their leases.

“We’re incredibly selective in our partnerships,” explained AmEx Senior Vice President Gunther Bright, explaining why the company has maintained a comparatively modest presence in the affinity card market.  “We have our reputation for services to protect, but it was clear to us that Mercedes-Benz shared with us the desire to deliver extraordinary service to its customers.  So, if anything, this marriage was a little overdue.”

For his part, Geoff Robinson, the vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, cited “a strong affiliation” between the brands and suggested that offering an AmEx card to Mercedes customers was “appropriate,” considering the sort of lifestyle the carmaker’s owners normally lead.

For the premium automotive arm of Daimler AG, the addition of the affinity card is intended to “deepen the relationship with the customer, which will encourage them to increase spending with the Mercedes brand.”

The Mercedes-AmEx tie-up is by no means the first in the auto industry.  General Motors was one of the first to offer an affinity card aimed at generating both revenue and repeat car purchases.  But the challenge, observers say, is to partner with a financial services brand that customers respect – and to come up with a card that offers both services and a fee structure that will keep customers from later switching brands.

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