- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Capital One Financial Corp. is hoping to attract new clients by promising not to call them at home. The company started a big television- and print-advertising campaign recently to pitch its hassle-free card.
"There's no telemarketing. … The genesis is that people were telling us they want to make the card more simple, so we came up with the no-hassle card," said Diana Sun, director of customer affairs for Capital One, which is based in Falls Church.
The Visa Platinum No-Hassle card has a fixed 9.9 percent rate on all transactions, including cash advances and balance transfers. It has no annual fee, and it promises customers they won't be annoyed by telemarketers.
"We would not call them," Miss Sun said. "Unless it's something related to their account; for example, a fraud alert or for some kind of a problem."
Customer response to the card during the past few months of testing was "very positive," she added. "Because of the testing, we knew it was something that people would really respond to."
Holders of the new card will, however, continue to receive promotional offerings in the mail, as do all other credit-card customers. Capital One sends out nearly one-third of the credit-card offerings mailed in the United States every year, accounting for more than 1 billion tailor-made solicitations to consumers with particular credit histories and tastes.
"They have a product for everybody," said Bjorn Turnquist, analyst with SNL Securities. "And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know nobody likes to get [telemarketing] calls at home."
Capital One has some 40 million customers and about 7,000 different cards. The company conducts some 45,000 tests a year, offering consumers different features from lower interest rates to long-distance phone calling along with a card.
"Anything you can think of, we've tested it," said Miss Sun. "Through testing, we figured out certain aspects and features that some customers really wanted. And that's how we put together this bundle of features into the no-hassle card."
Telemarketing has escalated in recent years to the point where lawmakers stepped in to protect consumers by creating "do-not-call" lists, on which people can register their phones numbers to avoid telemarketing pitches. About half the states, among them New York, California and Florida, have such legislation.
The Direct Marketing Association which represents direct marketers, catalogers, music and book clubs, and Internet retailers also gets 60,000 to 150,000 requests per month from customers who want to be taken off mailing and phone lists. The DMA's Mail Preference Service has about 3.5 million names, and the Telephone Reference Service has about 4 million names. Both lists had about 1.5 million names five years ago.
Given the amount of in-depth research Capital One does before launching a product, the hassle-free card should become popular, analysts believe.
"It's a customer-friendly step that will appeal to a segment that does not appreciate the telemarketing," said Greg McBride, senior analyst with Bankrate.com, a financial-services research firm in Palm Beach, Fla.
But "you're still going to get all that mail," said Dave Danielson, vice president of Danielson Associates Inc., a Rockville banking-research firm.


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