Being an American Airlines frequent-flier club member must have special perks. Otherwise, why would Citibank send me what must be my 20th mail solicitation with an exclusive offer of 15,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (with no annual fee for 12 months)?
  Citi also must regard me highly. A friend who was living with my wife and I got a similar solicitation, only she was offered just 12,500 bonus miles. Needless to say, neither of us signed up. Who would pay $50 a year, after the first free year, for a credit card when so many free credit cards are available? I don't see the point.
  You might think Citi would have gotten that message, say, after I ignored the first few solicitations. I can't imagine how many other "exclusive" offers Citi has sent to other consumers who, like me, now automatically toss such mail in the trash. Like many issuers, though, Citi appears addicted to the mail medium, despite what experts say are declining consumer responses to mail campaigns.
  As an industry, mail campaigns represent a huge expense. Consumers last year received a record-setting 6.05 billion credit card solicitations, up 16.3% from 5.2 billion the previous year, according to Synovate, a Chicago-based market research firm.
  One reason for declining response rates to credit card mail solicitations is that, as fewer people send personal mail, the relevance of mail is decreasing, contends Adam Elgar, president of Serverside Group Ltd. Serverside offers a product that provides issuers a marketing alternative - the ability to let consumers go online to design credit or debit cards with digital images of their children, pets or almost anything else they'd like.
  Visa USA is endorsing the product, too. Visa says it likes the Serverside system because it could generate cardholder acquisition, usage and retention. It also enables issuers to do tests quickly using online banking sites or other Web media, Visa says.
  I would hope issuers are continuing to use mail solicitations because they have experienced success when conducting them. But I find it hard to imagine such a trend lasting for much longer when the response from a growing number of consumers is to simply toss the mailings in the trash, unopened. For that reason, emerging alternatives vying for marketing dollars probably are worth exploring.
  (c) 2006 Cards&Payments and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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