Powering loyalty with credit cards

As consumers once again reach into their wallets, many will be pulling out their cards and demonstrating their commitment to a particular organisation, whether that’s a football club, airline or charity.

Affinity card relationships can offer consumers loyal to brands a unique set of benefits as well as driving results for the brands themselves.

“Credit-card affinities can help brands grow their business on the back of real consumer advocacy,” says Michael Donald, commercial executive at MBNA, a UK leader in credit-card affinity relationships.

“Every time a customer takes a card product out of their wallet, it reminds them why they took it out and about the brand they have a particular affinity with, whether retailer or airline. UK brands are able to make these connections even more powerful, while brands from emerging markets are also coming to the UK with their global brand, wanting to launch affinities.”

For brands, it can not only generate an additional source of revenue each time a transaction is made, but also help to reinforce and reward a customer’s loyalty to their organisation, ensuring priority of the card and helping to keep customers loyal in the future.

From a consumer’s perspective, affinity credit cards allow individuals to benefit from a wide range of rewards put forward by the brands they support, ranging from discounted flights to football shirts, tickets to events and charity donations, as well as helping to support that particular cause financially.

MBNA’s affinity-card experience means it can work with partners to identify the business model that best suits them and their customer base.


“We believe MBNA is unrivalled in the UK in terms of running co-branded credit-card programmes and the reason we’re so good at it is that we’re able to work with the partners to understand the needs of their customers,” says Mr Donald.

“Our model is rooted in truly understanding consumer loyalties, and connecting and rewarding these. It’s a win for the consumer, but also a commercial win for the affinity brands we’re proud to work with.”

One example of this is the organisation’s work with Manchester United, where MBNA was able to roll out a new “Champions” credit card to eligible fans in the UK within a week of the club winning the title for a record twentieth time, helping to strengthen its relationship with supporters and allowing them to share in the club’s achievement.

“Our capabilities allowed the club to focus on their fan base and ensured priority of the card in wallets or purses with a whole new set of engaged consumers,” says Mr Donald.

With credit cards operating across the three main credit-card networks of American Express, MasterCard and Visa, also means MBNA customers can benefit from a wide range of additional rewards, driving even greater value directly to consumers.

The model is well established in sectors such as football, airlines and travel, but there are other industries which could benefit, including utilities and retail. There are also potential opportunities for brands themselves to collaborate, using a mutual MBNA relationship as the basis for even more compelling customer offers.

“An example is airlines which have relationships in football,” says Mr Donald. “We support card programmes for both segments and that offers us some amazing potential.”

The economic downturn of the past few years has seen a number of financial institutions and card providers leave the affinity market, leaving behind those who have built their business around the concept.

“The UK issues more card products than any other outside the United States and we have one of the widest-travelled populations on the planet, for business and tourism,” he says. “The affinity-card model, which is rooted in MBNA’s DNA, gives brands the opportunity to not only reward customers for demonstrating their loyalty, but to deliver a commercial win for the brand and their customers.”

MBNA is uniquely positioned to help organisations with large-scale customer bases and/or global or leading UK brands develop an affinity credit-card programme. For more information visit www.mbna.co.uk or newbusiness@mbna.com



MBNA is an established leader in providing co-branded consumer credit cards, drawing on a 21-year history of operating in the UK and its relationships with more than 350 partners.

These include card programmes with retail and professional organisations, such as the AA and NFU, as well as airlines, football clubs and charitable organisations.

The business is committed to its own brand promise of “making life easier”, and prides itself on a pledge to provide world-class customer service. This brand promise can now be seen on the River Thames each day following its support of the MBNA Thames Clippers.

Owned by Bank of America, MBNA is also primary sponsor of the Sale Sharks rugby union team and its local football club, Chester FC.

It was voted credit card provider of the year in the 2014 Consumer Moneyfacts Awards.