Mercedes-Benz and American Express Launch Two Co-Branded Credit Cards

Mercedes-Benz and American Express have joined forces to launch two new jco-branded credit cards with significant perks.

One card offers a revolving credit line, the other requires payment in full monthly; both offer 5x membership rewards points on purchases of Mercedes-Benz products and services, including maintenance, and other perks. It’s the first time Mercedes has authorized a co-branded credit card, and the first time Amex has co-branded with an automaker..

“It’s unprecedented for both companies,” said Geoff Robinson, of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

The Mercedes-Benz/American Express Platinum Card carries a pricey $475 annual fee, but that’s more than offset by perks including an allowance of 2,000 additional miles on a MBFS lease, valued at approximately $500, $1,000 off a new purchase or lease, and 50,000 Membership Reward points, also valued at around $500. There also are standard card benefits, including fourth night free in luxury hotel chains such as Ritz Carlton, complimentary access to many airline airport club lounges, no-fee foreign money transactions, and exclusive private offers.

“This card is a lifestyle choice,” said Gunther Bright, an executive with American Express Card Services, adding the company expects some existing Platinum Card holders to switch to the co-branded version. He said that despite the current economy, this is a good time to launch a new high-end credit card product because “Platinum card customers are more resilient to economic downturns.”

The less expensive card, with a revolving line of credit and an interest rate of prime plus 11% to 15%, carries a $95 annual fee. This also is offset in the first year by 1,000 additional miles on a MBFS lease, valued at around $250. In addition, this card offers users triple rewards points at gas stations and double points at restaurants.

“These are all benefits that resonate with card users,” said Bright, adding the co-branded cards will “appeal to Mercedes-Benz customers who don’t have an American Express card, and vise versa.”

“Anybody who comes into a Mercedes-Benz showroom can apply for one of the cards,” said Robinson. The co-branded credit cards are being marketed both separately and jointly by the two companies, including at the U. S. Open tennis championships in New York City, which begins Tuesday, August 23rd. Both are major event sponsors, as they are for major golf tournaments and other sports and fashion-related events, including New York City’s Fashion Week.

Mercedes-Benz has base of three million customer and one-half million leases in the USA, and American Express has a base of 40 million. “We are making sure they all know about this offering,” said Amex’ Bright.

The card launch was announced at a news conference at the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Manhattan, the only corporate owned dealership in North America. The $220 million facility occupies 330,000 square feet and has 70 computerized service bays. The building, with three underground levels, is awaiting LEED Platinum certification; it opened in June 2011.

Customers can apply for either card beginning August 22, 2011.

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