The National Education Association is a very large and powerful organization. They are one of the largest endorsing groups in MBNA's roster. What the NEA wants, the NEA usually gets. They are a sensitive, erudite, and financially savvy group. At over 2.5 million strong, they definitely wield a big stick.
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While I was employed at MBNA, I had a chance to work closely with some folks from the NEA regarding the MBNA credit card program. The NEA is so powerful, they decide for themselves how and when their card will be marketed to their members. I can attest to the fact that the NEA really goes to the mat for its members. They listen and respond to feedback, and generally the reaction time is very swift.
Teaming up with MBNA was a natural for the NEA. Both companies are very concerned with quality and customer service. With the partnership of endorsing companies like the NEA, MBNA has grown into one of the top credit card issuers in the world.
Only NEA members (including retired members) are eligible for the NEA MasterCard. The lists of members and cardholders are cross-checked on a regular basis. The groups are arranged by state, just like the NEA delegates. The NEA MasterCard is one of many financial benefits the NEA offers its members. If a cardholder does not renew his/her NEA membership, the privilege of utilizing the NEA MasterCard will be lost.
-- The Card --
The standard NEA MasterCard has a great painting a group of kids on the front steps of a schoolhouse. The card is also available in Gold and Platinum versions, although these upgraded cards do not have the same cool painting. There is also a more austere version of the card for retired members.
The NEA MasterCard is only available to NEA members (in good standing or retired) and their families.
-- The Rates --
• There is no annual fee for the card. If you want to add on the travel rewards program, there is an annual fee of $30 for that service.
• There is a promo rate of 2.9% on balance transfers for the first 4 months. There is no fee to transfer a balance with this initial promotional rate.
• The normal APR on the card is a fixed rate of 15.99% on the Platinum card, and 16.99% on either the Gold or the Standard card.
• There is a 25-day grace period, so you can pay the balance in full each month and not pay a finance charge.
• Credit lines go up to $100,000 on the Platinum, $50,000 on the Gold, and $5,000 on the Standard.
-- The Fees --
• Overlimit Fee: $25
• Late Fee: $25
• Bank and ATM cash advance fee: 2% of the advance with a $2 minimum, $10 maximum.
• Balance transfers or cash advance checks: 1% of the amount with a $2 minimum and $10 maximum.
The fees for cash advances are significantly lower than industry standards.
-- The Benefits --
• Preferential Treatment
The NEA is very particular about how their cardholders are handled. Therefore, there are specially trained and designated representatives at MBNA that handle their accounts. You should receive excellent service.
When you have questions about the benefits and services, you can either call MBNA customer service, or NEA customer service. Personally, I've found the NEA representatives to be more knowledgeable and willing to discuss the benefits of the card than the representatives who work for MBNA.
• Limited and strictly controlled marketing campaigns
The NEA is notorious about controlling how their membership is marketed. NEA delegates decide, on a state by state basis, whether or not they want their membership to participate in various campaigns. I have seen an entire state pulled from the program because of several complaints from members. The NEA takes special care not to allow their membership to be excessively telemarketed. Our representatives marketing the card had to work off scripts provided and approved by the NEA. If a prospective customer said no, that was the end of the call.
The usual array of MBNA credit card benefits apply to the NEA Platinum MasterCard.
• Of course there is 24-hour customer service available.
• A year-end summary of all the activity on the card is free. This is a very helpful feature that will enable you to segregate different types of expenses... very helpful at tax time or if you have work related expenses for which you are reimbursed.
• You can request free extra cards for family members who are authorized users of the account.
• Zero liability for fraudulent charges: this is the new industry standard on MasterCard & Visa. Be sure you report any lost or stolen card immediately.
• By charging the full price of your common carrier ticket on the card, you are automatically covered by a $1,000,000 Travel Accident Insurance policy. Additionally, your lost luggage is covered for up to $3,000.
• If you need to rent a car, you can take advantage of the Supplemental Rental Auto Insurance, no need to pay extra to the rental company for the protection, it's free as long as you charge the full cost of the rental on your card. This is not a replacement for your primary insurance, but rather a way for you to avoid paying that extra $11-$20 per day that most rental companies charge for the supplemental collision coverage.
• The Purchase Protection Plan will protect purchases you make on the card for up to 90 days against theft or damage. Additionally, your purchase is covered with an extended warranty for up to an additional year. This is a benefit run through MasterCard and you will find it on virtually every Platinum and Gold card.
• The website is fairly easy to use and very reliable. You can check your account balance, see your statements for the past several months, and pay your bill right online with no additional fees.
-- The Optional Travel Rewards Benefit --
For a fee of $30 per year, the NEA MasterCard can act as a very nice travel rewards program. One mile is awarded for every dollar of purchases placed on the card. There are no points awarded for balance transfers.
• 35,000 points = round trip to Europe
• 25,000 points = round trip in North America
• 15,000 points = round trip in contiguous US states
When you decide to redeem points, you must use MBNA's Palladian Travel Service. There are no black out dates, but MBNA will choose the airline with the lowest fare. If you want a specific airline, you have the option of paying the difference in the cost of the tickets to upgrade. You must make your reservations at least 21 days in advance.
There is a limit of a maximum of 70,000 points that can be earned in one year, and the points expire 5 years from the end of the year in which they are earned.
There are some other restrictions, so be sure to call Palladian and get all the details when you are planning your redemption. Points can also be used on car rentals and hotels.
Compared to other miles programs, this one is pretty good. The annual fee is quite low and the point structure is more advantageous than most. I know several people who have booked their travel through Palladian utilizing NEA points and they have been very satisfied with the service.
-- In Conclusion --
The NEA MasterCard is a good choice for consumers who are looking for a nice travel program and are members of the NEA. It's also a good card for educational professionals who want to carry a card that identifies their profession. The service, benefits, and fee structure exceed industry standards. The APR, however, is on the high end for a Platinum card. There are better cards and there are worse cards, but if you love the NEA, and want to earn travel rewards, this is the card to carry. :)
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