Bunhill: Plastic profusion

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The Independent Online
IN recognition of your loyalty over the years, dear readers, I am thinking of offering a special Bunhill credit card to devotees of this column (another Sunday paper, after all, already offers one).

To avoid confusion with lesser cards, Bunhill's portrait will be hologrammed on the front. Other benefits will include a slightly less extortionate rate of interest than on ordinary cards, the lack of an annual fee, and the jealousy of neighbours when they notice you using this very superior method of lightening your bank account.

The marketing men, of course, have a name for this wheeze: 'affinity marketing'. You will feel a warm glow as you see me twinkling up at you from the card, and I will feel a warm glow from the cut I receive every time you use it. In this way, we will build up an affinity for one another and everyone will be happy. Clever, eh?

The Institute of Directors is the latest to have jumped on the bandwagon by offering its own card - gold, of course - to its members. In next to no time, 2,000 captains of industry have applied. And why not? Porsche and Jaguar owners already have their own Visa card, as do the British Medical Association, the Royal Yachting Association and the Royal College of Nursing, to name but a few.

Undeterred by the naffness of a credit card that looks like a postcard, Cambridge University has also been marketing its own bit of plastic to its 100,000 graduates in Britain for the past six months. For every card issued, the university gets pounds 4 from the card operator, Beneficial Bank, a US outfit that specialises in this sort of thing. So far, 7,000 cards have been issued featuring a pretty picture of the Senate House to remind users of their carefree varsity days. 'We are doing it for friend-raising as well as fund- raising,' a spokesman said.

Which makes me wonder why Oxford doesn't have one, too. Is it seen as too tacky, or is it to do with Oxford's traditional suspicion of anything new- fangled and modern? Look out for a dark blue credit card hitting the market some time around 2020.

(Photograph omitted)