Alliance Data Systems Corp. replaced Barclaycard US as the issuer of Virgin America's affinity credit card this week, launching two products that are co-branded with the airline's Elevate frequent flier program through its Alliance Data Retail Services and Comenity Capital Bank divisions.
Dallas-based Alliance Data will offer two Virgin America affinity products: a Visa Signature card that carries a $49 annual fee, and a Premium Visa Signature card that offers additional travel incentives and has a $149 annual fee. In addition to providing frequent flier points on purchases, both cards offer incentives including free checked bags and discounts on companion airfare and in-flight purchases on Virgin America flights.
San Francisco-based Virgin America began operating in August 2007, and partnered with Barclaycard US to issue a no-fee affinity card in October 2008. Barclays later began offering a fee-based affinity card that offered additional benefits.
Existing cardholders of both products were notified late last year that the airline and issuer would end their partnership on Jan. 1, and their cards would be replaced with Barclaycard's private-label travel rewards product, called the Arrival card. The change requires consumers that want to continue using a Virgin America frequent flier card to apply for the new affinity product offered by Alliance Data.
That contrasts with the way Barclaycard's partnership with AirTran Airways ended, which saw JPMorgan Chase launch its own AirTran-branded frequent flier card in October 2012 and acquire Barclaycard's legacy AirTran portfolio in April 2013. JPMorgan Chase added those accounts to its existing base of AirTran cardholders.
Chase, which also issues the Southwest Airlines frequent flier card, currently maintains separately-branded frequent flier cards for the two airlines while Southwest continues to integrate operations following its May 2011 acquisition of AirTran.
Barclaycard also issues the US Airways frequent flier card, and the airline has yet to detail its plans for the program following its recent merger with American Airlines, which offers a frequent flier card issued by Citi.
The new Virgin cards are issued by Alliance Data's banking subsidiary and marketed by its Retail Services business. Alliance Data will provide credit and marketing services for the Virgin America cards and use its suite of acquisition tools to "drive cardholder spend and further support one-to-one customer engagement" during the multiyear agreement, the companies say in a Jan. 7 press release.
The base version of the new card is black, while the premium card is silver. The front of both cards feature a vertical orientation to "mirror Virgin America's sleek design aesthetic," and the design includes a "moodlit window" that the companies say is a first for a credit card.
Virgin Group which owns the affiliated, but separately-controlled Virgin Atlantic airline and other Virgin-branded companies has a 25% stake in Virgin America, with the remaining 75% of the company held by private U.S. investors in compliance with federal airline regulations that limit foreign investment in domestic airlines.