Wells Fargo, eyeing growth in credit cards, lands hotel chain as partner

Wells Fargo has nabbed a co-branded hotel card partnership from Barclays, notching a win in the megabank’s efforts to revitalize its credit card business.

The bank’s new multi-year partnership is with Choice Hotels International, which operates brands such as Radisson Hotels, Comfort, Quality, Clarion, Econo Lodge and Cambria. Choice Hotels has nearly 7,500 properties across the globe.

The announcement comes as Wells retools its credit card portfolio. In recent years, the San Francisco bank has launched a new suite of Wells Fargo-branded cards aimed at growing its customer base after years of underperformance.

Wells Fargo’s new partnership with Choice Hotels follows its launch last year of a co-branded card with the renter-focused loyalty company Bilt Rewards.

The $1.9 trillion-asset bank has not traditionally been a major player in the co-branded card space, where banks partner with airlines, hotel chains and other retailers to offer credit cards bearing both companies’ names.

The latest card announcement is “one more step in our transformation to grow our credit card business,” said Krista Phillips, Wells Fargo’s head of consumer cards, marketing cards and merchant services. 

It’s “no secret” that Wells Fargo’s competitors have many of the bigger co-branded partnerships, Phillips said, but there are “many meaningful” opportunities for the bank to grow in the card business.

“We’re going to continue to look at opportunities as they arise,” Phillips said, adding that the partnership announced Tuesday is “part of our long-term strategy to partner with best-in-class brands.”

Spokespeople for Barclays, which previously partnered with Choice Hotels on credit cards, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wells Fargo has long offered a co-branded card with the retailer Dillards, and in 2020 it launched Hotel.com’s first-ever credit card. Last year, Wells Fargo also launched the Bilt Mastercard, a co-branded card with the renter-focused loyalty company Bilt Rewards, which offers points on rent payments.

The latest card will stick with the hotel chain’s current branding for its card program: Choice Privileges. The card, however, will now be issued with Mastercard, a change from the current co-branded card offered by Barclays and Visa.

Existing cardholders will see the card’s new features starting in May, and Wells Fargo will start taking applications for new cardholders at that time. 

Customers will be able to use the card at any retailer that accepts Mastercard, but they will get five times points for stays at the hotel chain’s properties and three times points for spending at gas stations and grocery stores, as well as on home improvement plans and phone plans.

“We really believe that this is going to be a lifestyle card, not just a travel credit card,” Phillips said.

Customers will also be able to use benefits tied to the World Elite Mastercard program, which offers discounts at some merchants, travel concierge services and in-person or virtual experiences offered on Mastercard’s Priceless platform.

“Teaming up with Wells Fargo and Mastercard allows us to provide cardmembers with even faster ways to earn exceptional rewards,” Robert McDowell, chief commercial officer at Choice Hotels, said in a news release.

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