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VOL. 109 | NO. 11 | Wednesday, October 18, 1995

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BellSouth secures market position with credit and calling card BellSouth secures market position with credit and calling card James Snyder The Daily News BellSouth issued a new combination credit card and calling card this month, shoring up the companys position in a soon-to-be saturated telecommunications market. Recently renaming Southern Bell and South Central Bell under its umbrella, BellSouth joins other companies in the calling card-credit card market, including AT&T, Citibank and Discover. The company intends to compete with major carriers using card incentives, and also with the cable companies that likely will be entering the telephone industry, said John Goldman of the BellSouth regional office in Birmingham. The card is universally available, but is being offered directly to BellSouth employees, retirees and those who already have been accepted for the Visa card itself, said Leslie Dale, BellSouth spokesman in Memphis. "We wanted to offer a credit card and calling card, because traditionally we offered just the phone service," Dale said. "Its a very good offer for very good customers." Moreover, it eases BellSouth into a large market by creating millions of card customers literally overnight through direct solicitation of customers with the best payment records, Goldman said. "They can get them from anybody, frankly. I think you can get an oil company calling card in todays world. You can certainly get calling cards in a cereal box," Goldman said. "Were trying to give our customers a reason to stay with us rather than go with our competition." Incentives include 20 percent cash back for calls made with any carrier, 2 percent cash back if the calling card statements are paid on the Visa, and an overall 1 percent cash return on all Visa purchases, according to Dale. The cash return accrues at a monthly rate, but customers receive a check only on the yearly anniversary of the cards issuance. "Its too costly (to return at a monthly rate)," Dale explained. "You couldnt give that benefit and issue it more often than that." The closest competitor is AT&Ts Universal card, which offers a 10% discount on calls made between $10 and $25, 25 percent discounts on calls above $25 a month, and a point system to win benefits, according to AT&T spokesman Mitch Montagna. Like most companies in the 1990s, BellSouth downsized and cutback, becoming "leaner and meaner" to remain competitive, Goldman said. The new card is a way to secure its position in the market. BellSouth decided to follow the market before releasing its own card, Goldman said. "We have entertained some proposals from other banks and looked for an arrangement that made good sense for us and for our customers," Goldman said. "Perhaps we were just more conservative. We wanted to see how it worked out (industry-wide)." For convenience, the calling card number is the owners phone number plus a four-digit security code. Other offerings include 90-day purchase insurance, a 25-day grace period for purchases, a credit line topping out at $10,000, and warranty protection for up to a year on most purchases.
PROPERTY SALES 69 357 17,741
MORTGAGES 66 403 20,438
BUILDING PERMITS 208 696 36,641
BANKRUPTCIES 52 210 11,374