credit cards

Should you friend credit card issuers?

Young Asian Woman holding credit card with social networking sites in the background.
Highlights
  • Being a fan on Facebook can get you access to special promotions.
  • Using Twitter to voice your gripes can grab the company's attention.
  • The issuer's Facebook page may offer a way to support your favorite causes.

There are plenty of times you might grimace when someone contacts you on Facebook. Your mom. Your ex. Your boss. How about your credit card company? Believe it or not, your issuer (and not your ex) could become a virtual friend with benefits.

As social media carves out a permanent place in everyone's lives -- Facebook claims more than 800 million users and Twitter more than 100 million active users worldwide -- credit card companies are trying to make cyber connections with consumers.

Already, 1 in 4 people have become a fan, friend or follower of their issuer, according to a survey this year from Synergistics Research Corp., an Atlanta-based market research firm. A third of those wanted to find out about special promotions or deals.

They might be on to something.

More credit card companies are offering discounts and other perks on social networking sites, while others are taking customer service complaints. A few are stepping into social apps and games such as Foursquare and "FarmVille."

"When you think about social media, you're really asking permission to have a deeper and more intimate dialogue with your customers," says Matt Kane, general manager of the Chase Freedom portfolio. "So you need to give customers a great incentive to be your friend."

Being a fan can get you deals

"If you ask the No. 1 reason someone friends a card company, it's getting something that's not available to others who are not friends," says William McCracken, CEO of Synergistics Research Corp.

During Fall Fashion Week this year, American Express offered cardholders a $100 statement credit when they spent $500 or more at online fashion retailer Net-A-Porter.com. The twist? Cardholders could only unlock the offer on the issuer's Facebook application Link, Like, Love, which offers discounts based on likes, interests and social connections, says Sarika Sangwan, a senior manager at the company.

In October, Chase unveiled its Get Your Cash Back sweepstakes and created a Facebook subpage for it on its Chase Freedom page. Those who liked the contest page were asked to fill out a form to enter. The prizes: $500 Visa gift cards and a grand prize of $1 million. In the first three days, more than 200,000 liked the page, according to Alan Maginn, senior analyst at Corporate Insight.

The deals aren't just on Facebook. Discover launched a Six Flags tickets giveaway on Twitter in October 2011. The issuer tweeted a trivia question at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Central time, and the first five people to tweet the right answer won Six Flags tickets. The questions were about Discover and Six Flags.

"Twitter is a slightly different crowd, because it's limited to character count. It works for news-bite information," says Suzanne Stull-Lazo, social media and brand manager at Discover.

Follow up on gripes for swift attention

Twitter also has proven to be a great way to reach confused or disgruntled credit card customers. Stull-Lazo says the Discover staff often answers general credit-education questions posed on Twitter.

Discover is not alone in helping out customers through tweets. Bank of America, American Express, Capital One and Citibank all have dedicated Twitter accounts for customer service, says Maginn. Chase is in the middle of developing a Twitter customer service pilot to roll out by the end of year or early next, says Kane.

"We want to service people through the channel that is most convenient to them," he says.

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