Virgin plans to launch a credit card within three to six months, say company sources, in a move which would see it steal a march on rival British Airways.
BA, which unveiled a co-branded charge card with Diners Club International last month (MW July 19), is also understood to be considering launching a credit card, with NatWest Bank tipped as the most likely supplier.
The credit card would enhance customer loyalty, while Virgin and the credit card issuer could gather customer information through a shared database.
Virgin has been in talks with at least five companies for the past year, thought to include American Express and NatWest. Lloyds TSB has also been tipped as a possible partner. It is not known if the card will be co-branded.
Virgin says it has no immediate plans to launch a credit card. It believes there are potential problems in choosing a partner because of its close links with the main credit card companies, especially through its airline business.
“We might well go ahead with some kind of credit card project.
We have been thinking of building our Freeway scheme (the reward scheme centred on Virgin Atlantic Airways) along those lines,” says a spokesman.
A credit card would act as a linking mechanism across all parts of the Virgin group, which includes marketing operations as diverse as the Virgin Trading Company, Virgin Radio and Virgin Direct, the group’s personal finance arm.