Showing posts with label Schumer Box. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Schumer Box. Show all posts


PenFed Credit Union: What's the Point(s)?

 A couple years ago, I wrote about a credit card solicitation I received from PenFed Credit Union. It took some serious sleuthing to understand why I would be eligible for membership. Since then, I've received a few others from PenFed, including this one for a PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card.

I received this mailing as someone who isn't a PenFed member, isn't a member of the armed forces, and is someone who knows about PenFed only because of writing this blog. The letter includes a paragraph explaining that I need to become a member to get the credit card. So, it's probably safe to conclude that the mailer's target audience is who don't know much about PenFed.

Their recent solicitation is again pretty typical for a mid-tier credit card provider: window envelope; letter with Johnson Box; clear Call to Action; Schumer Box; brochure insert; and required credit prescreen opt-out notice. Let's break it down.

The window envelope is clearly branded. Unlike the one from two years ago, this one does not have a teaser

PenFed Credit Union Credit Card Offer Envelope

The personalized letter opens with a straightforward Johnson Box message: Earn 15,000 points when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days. Nice. The letter opens by communicating a benefit that the rewards card works with my lifestyle. I can earn bonus points by doing what I do. I can get 5x points for filling my car's tank -- or even charging my EV, so forward-thinking! -- 3x points for food shopping or eating and doing other everyday stuff, and everyday 1x points for all those other purchases. The points accrual rates are reinforced in the right margin. 

PenFed Credit Union Credit Card Offer Letter

The letter closes with an explanation that I need to become a PenFed Credit Union member to get the credit card. It's a simple process, so all I need to do is scan the QR code or go to their website to get started.

The back of the letter reinforces points accrual and compares it to other credit card providers that offer points, then reinforces the Call to Action. 

PenFed Credit Union Credit Card Offer Letter

The points proposition is reinforced with a tri-fold brochure reinforcing points accrual rates. It also communicates some secondary perks such as Tap to Pay and Fraud Monitoring, but mainly it's about how all those points can really add up -- and the Call to Action is reinforced yet again.

Brochure Cover

Brochure inset

Brochure inside

Brochure back

The letter package also includes the legally required Schumer Box and accompanying language disclosing the card product's terms.

Credit disclosures, including Schumer Box

 The back of the disclosures page is blank.
Back of credit disclosures page (blank page)

This isn't a quite a Fail for Creative; however, there are some improvement opportunities: 

  • Consider an enticement for the prospective customer to open the envelope. There should be an envelope teaser that would motivate the recipient to open the envelope. Given that the target audience is non-members (e.g. do not have a relationship with PenFed) this is more important than usual. (The "You're Pre-Approved" message in the standard size window is easily missed.)

  • Since the audience is non-member who don't know them, PenFed should introduce itself. Maybe PenFed has strong brand recognition within the military community; but, since I also received it, they are presumably also soliciting new customers who haven't served. Consider using the Who We Are content from the website and include it on the back of the required disclosures sheet, or squeeze a message in the letter or the brochure. 

  • Share the value of points. There is plenty of space allotted to points accrual, but nothing about how the points can be used. Explain if points can be used for travel, cash back, donations to the USO, or something I might enjoy. Also, the lack of quantification of value can be suspicious. Perhaps that 15,000-point intro bonus is worth less than the 10,000-point bonus with the compared-to American Express EveryDay Credit Card -- or perhaps it takes 20,000 points to get a shiny nickel. 


  1. Think about your target audience. If they are not current customers, help them get to know you.
  2. When soliciting prospective customers, include a conspicuous teaser message to give them a reason to open your envelope.
  3. Communicate benefits. Points are not a benefit. They are a vehicle of earnings toward a benefit. 
  4. Paper is expensive. Don't waste any. Leverage blank space to sell some more.


Chase Credit Cards: When a fee is not a fee

Outer Envelope

Earlier this year, I wrote how a Presidential Plus credit card offer from Chase was a Fail for Creative and Offer. The letter was confusing and defensive and sent at a time when it was not clear to the consumer — and perhaps to Chase — which cardmember benefits would be available with the card.

Stronger Cover Letter

A more recent version of the solicitation arrived in my mailbox. Rather than cite the merger, the letter ignores it.  Smart move. Instead it leads with a competitive rebuttal to the AmericanExpress Platinum Card, leveraging the fact that people with Chase’s Presidential Plus Card can visit the Presidents Club, while those with a Platinum Card have to wait for their flight with the little people. The letter is smartly signed by someone from Continental Airlines rather than someone from United Airlines. In this respect, the letter is a dramatic improvement.

The package merits a Fail for Creative and Offer for Chase’s communication of the benefit of no foreign transaction fees. Over the past decade, nearly all the major banks have increased their foreign transaction fee from 1% to 3%. In fact, until a few months ago, only Capital One did not charge the fee. For a $5,000 business trip — including lodging, dining, transportation and other expenses — 3% in transaction fees means $150 in costs for engaging in normal purchasing behavior. A savings of 3% in and of itself is more attractive to international business travelers than frequent flyer miles with an implied benefit of ½% to 2% of the purchase amount.

Colorful insert
Back of colorful insert with benefit description
The benefit is cited in a colorful insert but not the cover letter. That is a bit of a miss. The insert references checking the back of the cover letter, which does mention (though in small type) that there are no foreign transaction fees. But the Fail is that the official legal communication of pricing information, the Schumer Box, lists in clear 12-point typeface in the Fees section “Foreign Transactions: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.”
The back of the letter mentions "Foreign Transaction Fee: None" however ...

... the Schumer Box, the legal documentation of account terms, mentions 3% Foreign Transaction fee
The package included a color benefits brochure
Also, why is the response URL The card being sold is the Presidential Plus Card that reads on the card “Presidential Plus”. So why not use,, or even

  1. Communication of offers and benefits should be consistent throughout your package, especially when legal documents are involved.
  2. If your product has a strong benefit, communicate it in your cover letter.
  3. When a response method is online, use a URL that properly describes the product or is easy for a consumer to remember.