Faster. That’s the key to a new Internet site launched by Fleet Credit Card Services that enables customers to apply for a credit card, receive their number and begin shopping online within minutes as well as engage in a variety of activities relating to their accounts.

Philidelphia-based FCCS, a subsidiary of FleetBoston Financial Corp., launched the site in July.

“I think this is where the industry is going to be heading rapidly,” said Kevin Timmons, senior banking analyst with the investment banking and brokerage firm First Albany Corp. of New York.

“The Internet is accelerating consumers’ understanding of what a reasonable time frame is [to await approval],” he said. Financial services providers need to respond to that, he said.

On the FCCS site, located at, customers may receive almost instantaneous approval and use the new credit card number to begin shopping before they receive the plastic card in the mail.

In addition to shopping and credit applications, visitors can manage their account and read educational material posted about various aspects of credit cards, said Lauren Kelley, manager of e-business at FCCS.

“We launched the Fleet Credit Cards Web site July 17,” said Kelley. “With that launch, we wanted to offer consumers access to e-commerce as part of the updating of Fleet Credit Card Services.”

The latest aspect of the update includes an Internet commerce strategic partnership agreement with of West Chester, Pa. Spree provides shopping via the Internet through agreements it has with merchants. Customers receive a percentage of their purchase price paid back to them.

Brian Feldman, director of public relations for the three-year-old Spree, said agreements with recognizable brand names such as Eddie Bauer, CVS and Barnes & Noble can provide customers with anywhere from 2 to 23 percent of the purchase price returned to them, he said. Customers know before they click on the merchant icon what percentage they will receive. Spree gets a fee from the merchants for the service linking shoppers directly with merchants, said Feldman. Customers are mailed checks on a monthly basis once the amount of cash returned exceeds $5.

The benefit for Fleet, said Feldman, is in improving their customer acquisition and retention through offering more services. “I think it’s a terrific arrangement for them [FCCS]. When banks are looking for expansion of their accounts, it’s an excellent service for their customers,” he said. Although he would not yet disclose more information, Feldman did say the company is seeking the same arrangement with other banks.

Other choices given to the customer after a click on the shopping icon include a price comparison service at, customer ratings of merchants at and a list of the top 10 free offers at

Providing Fleet customers with more services encourages them to use their credit cards, says Kelley.

Capturing Customers
Timmons expects more agreements between banks and shopping services via the Internet to occur in the near future. “Obviously an Internet company wants to capture the customer and try to hold onto the customer for as long as possible,” he said. Fleet found a way not only to gain a credit card customer but to get them to use the card immediately, he said.

“Both instant decision and instant credit on the Fleet Credit Card site have been very successful since its inception in July,” said Kelley. However, citing Fleet’s disclosure policy, Kelley said she wouldn’t reveal the exact number of customers who have used the program.

Because customers are providing both personal information to gain the approval and then credit card information to shop, security concerns have been addressed.

“There would be no more issues of fraud [with the Internet application] than in the normal [application] routine,” said Kelley. One page on the site states the following about fraud: “You pay nothing if unauthorized online charges are made to your Fleet Credit Card account. Shop anywhere online at anytime and Fleet still provides the same protection against unauthorized use of your card.” Other sections of the site provide more information and advice on avoiding unauthorized use of credit card numbers and information.

According to Timmons, the instant approval process shouldn’t present a great deal more concern about security. “Obviously you want to be careful and not issue a lot of credit lines to people who are going to default,” he said. But most of the credit decisions are based on hard data which shouldn’t take too much time to go through, he said.

The Spree site also offers customers security. If there is a dispute between a customer and merchant, however, Feldman says customer service representatives working directly for Spree speak directly with the merchants on behalf of the customer. “We have very few complaints,” said Feldman.

The incentives for Fleet customers who use their credit cards to purchase items through Spree continues if they sign up other members. “When you’re a member of Spree, if you have other members sign up, you get 40 percent of whatever cash back they earn,” without subtracting from their original amount, Feldman said.

“I see this as a perfect fit. Especially with the credit card industry increasingly online,” said Kelley.

Fleet Credit Card Web Site Speeding Trend in Industry

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min