UCA, First Arkansas Bank & Trust Announce Credit Card Affinity Program

A new partnership between First Arkansas Bank & Trust and the University of Central Arkansas Alumni Association is expected to provide scholarships to UCA students.

Larry Wilson, chairman, president and CEO of First Arkansas Bank & Trust, and Karen Sullards, president of the UCA Alumni Association, announced plans Feb. 20 for an Alumni Association credit card affinity program. The entities hope the program will benefit the alumni and provide additional scholarships to university students in the process.

Through the partnership, First Arkansas Bank & Trust will provide credit card applications to UCA alumni. In return, the Alumni Association will receive an initial lump sum and royalties based on approved applications. A portion of the royalties will be designated for scholarships.

Wilson told Arkansas Business on Tuesday that the bank provided the Alumni Association $10,000 up front, in addition to $1,000 for scholarships.

In the future, for every approved application, the Alumni Association will receive $10, and for every 1,000 applications, $1,000 will go toward the Alumni Association scholarship program, according to UCA Director of Alumni Services Jan Newcomer.

For more than 20 years, UCA had an affinity program with MBNA and then Bank of America. In August 2012, Newcomer said Bank of America decided to drop all university affinity programs with less than an alumni database of 100,000, which meant the end of the partnership with UCA. Newcomer said UCA's alumni database was about 55,000. 

The end of the affinity program with Bank of America became official last summer.

But since August 2012, UCA's alumni association has actively searched for another bank to partner with to continue with the program, and looked for one with a presence in Faulkner County. Each of the banks was invited to make a proposal to the Alumni Association, which was then reviewed by an alumni committee.

"First Arkansas Bank & Trust was selected because their proposal will bring the most benefit to the Association and UCA students," Sullards said in the release. "We were particularly pleased with the bank’s commitment to student scholarships."

Newcomer said the "real selling point" was First Arkansas Bank & Trust's offer to help fund scholarships.

"We did not have that kind of program with Bank of America," she said. "Bank of America provided revenue, but it went directly to the Alumni Association. [First Arkansas Bank & Trust] was offering two opportunities: revenue for the Alumni Association and revenue for scholarships."

Currently, the Alumni Association provides 14 scholarships for UCA students

With its previous affinity program, the Alumni Association received about $20,000 in revenue per year, Newcomer said.

"That is a lot of revenue for us," she said. "Hopefully, this [affinity program] will produce that much and more."

"We are confident that we can provide a very competitive credit card program that will benefit both the individual alumnus of UCA, and the Alumni Association itself," Wilson said in the news release.

Wilson added that the bank will work with the Alumni Association to encourage its members to apply for and use the credit cards.

Further than the initial agreement and announcment, Newcomer said the partnership is still in the infant stages. Design for the card is still in the works.

"We're in the process of getting everything set up," she said. "It's going to be an online application process, and we're working with First Arkansas Bank & Trust to get that set up, and get the little kinks worked out."

As far as launching the program, Newcomer said the groups are hoping it occurs soon.

"We're hoping to at least have everything set up and complete by April 1, so we can start to promote it," she said.