Simmons First National Bank Considers Cash-Back Card

Simmons First National Bank has been a national player in the credit card market for decades.

Credit cards have remained a profitable line of business even though the Pine Bluff bank has resisted the kind of changes that other issuers have embraced.

As David Bush, the senior vice president who oversees Simmons’ credit card products, tells it, Simmons never targeted riskier customers, so the Great Recession didn’t force it to tighten its underwriting standards and the recovery hasn’t prompted any relaxing of its standards.

“We never changed,” he said. “Our model has been the same forever. We look for credit-worthy borrowers and offer them a low [interest] rate and good benefits.

“As a result, we’ve been through three nice recessions and we’ve been able to offer that product without pulling out of the market or backing up.”

Simmons doesn’t flood mailboxes with offers. Instead, Bush said, most of its marketing is aimed at bank customers at the branch level and likely out-of-state prospects through websites that match consumers with the best-fitting cards.

Simmons does offer a rewards card, a Visa product, that has mainly offered travel rewards: airline miles and other travel-related merchandise, Bush said.

But in response to customer demand, the venerable credit card issuer is contemplating a major change: adding a cash-back card.

It’s an expensive prospect, Bush indicated, so the decision won’t be made lightly.

“Cash is cash. Rewards we pay for. It comes off the bottom line,” he said.