Recent years have seen a boom in affinity cards - credit cards their creators and promoters have crafted to specifically "drive a bit more business to a particular company, store or idea, while carriers of such cards tend to feel happy to have the card and proud of the connection when they display it for use," according to Professor David Reibstein, a marketing expert at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Now those cards have a particular link to the Jewish community. An exciting new entry in the field, launched late last year and created specifically to help the Jewish community at large, is the Heritage Affinity Services Advantage card - the first affinity credit card that empowers Israeli charities, while promoting investment in Israel and tourism there.
Through the card, a number of smaller charities - 18 in all, including the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center, a 500-bed facility in Jerusalem; the Jewish National Fund; Chabad's Children of Chernobyl; and All4Israel, an organization that helps hundreds of terror-victim families - have been able to join together in this program, explained Zev Dobuler and Menachem Landau, HAS co-founders and co-CEOs.
Both men were raised in the United States and Israel, and both made aliyah, with their respective families, in 1991. They have an understanding of the two cultures and societies, speak English and Hebrew, and maintain dual citizenship.
"The card is an easy way for the Jewish community to support Israel," says Dobuler. "People can spend money on their HAS Advantage card every day while they benefit Israel's economy."
Inspiration for the card came from the real estate industry, acknowledges Landau: "We conceived of the idea when we thought about real estate management firms that oversee the properties of numerous landowners."
Connected, Every Day
In becoming a reality, U.S. Bancorp - with $207 billion in assets - partnered with HAS to offer the HAS Advantage Visa Platinum credit card, the foremost affinity and rewards card in direct support of Israel. HAS, together with U.S. Bancorp, donates a percentage of net purchases by card members to an Israel-related charitable organization (501c3) of their choice, while earning one HAS rewards point for every net dollar spent.
"HAS believes this card is an innovation in the highly competitive credit-card industry, since it's both an affinity card and a rewards-program card," explains Dobuler and Landau.
"We invested the past three years developing a very comprehensive and distinct credit-card platform to offer the most value to our target market," says Landau. "It is essential that our rewards program is not only comparable to any credit card, but exceeds its value with the very special redemption opportunities and charitable component.
"The HAS philosophy is to keep the Jewish community connected to Israel every day, without changing its daily routine."
HAS has partnered with El Al airlines, the Dan and Sheraton hotel chains, and Budget car rental in Israel to encourage card members to redeem points for travel to Israel. In addition, it offers a competitive rewards program that includes an option for members to redeem points for domestic travel on any airline, as well as brand-name merchandise, electronics, Judaica, gift certificates and more.
"To date," according to Landau, "the card has had very good initial success based on a very positive response by the Jewish community."
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