The 10 Colleges That Received The Biggest Payouts From Credit Card Issuers Last Year

Last year, a group of around 15 credit card issuers paid a total of more than $50 million to various schools and school-affiliated organizations in order to market credit cards to people at those educational institutions. Around 70% of that money came from a single Bank of America-owned credit card company, and though hundreds of schools received some sort of payment for helping introduce cards to college students, just the 10 largest single payments account for nearly 30% of the $50 million.

This is all according to a recent report [PDF] from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which, and mandated by the CARD Act of 2009, has been looking into the too-cozy relationship between financial service companies and schools.

Even though the CARD Act put restrictions on credit card companies’ ability to market directly to college students — which appears to have resulted in an overall drop in the amount of credit card borrowing by student — the report still found that in 2012, one credit card issuer, FIA Card Services, had 412 deals in place with schools and affiliated organizations (especially alumni associations) and paid out a total of nearly $35.6 million to those groups. That’s more than six times the total paid out by Chase, the issuer that handed over the second-largest pile of cash ($5.855 million) to colleges.

While you may not know the name of FIA Card Services, you probably remember it when it was called MBNA, and you definitely know its parent company, Bank of America.

While most of these arrangements used to be made directly between a card issuer and a school, that has changed in recent years, with alumni associations now representing the majority of paid arrangements with credit card companies.

Though this CFPB report does not explain the reason for this shift, it is most likely due to the marketing limitations put in place by the CARD Act that took away many of the questionable marketing tools card issuers had used to get students hooked on credit. A Sept. 2013 report [PDF] from CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman (and Consumerist pal) Rohit Chopra details how financial institutions are now moving away from pushing credit cards on students and toward financial products like checking accounts and debit cards.

At the same time, card issuers are choosing to deal with alumni associations instead of directly with the schools. By offering credit products through an alumni association or other affiliated organization, the card company can still leverage a university’s brand and reach both current students (though not as easily) and alumni.

Which may explain why the two largest single payments ($2.74 million from FIA to the Penn State Alumni Assoc., and $1.8 million from FIA to the Alumni Assoc. for the University of Michigan) are to two universities with a huge and very dedicated alumni base.

Penn State also accounted for the largest number of accounts for any organization, with more than 60,000 at the end of 2012, nearly double the number of accounts tied to Michigan.

The highest amount paid from a credit card issuer directly to a school was the $1.5 million paid to the University of Southern California by… you guessed it, FIA Card Services, followed by the $1.43 million FIA paid to the University of Tennessee.

Here are the top 10 payouts to colleges and affiliated organizations from 2012. At the bottom of the post is a sortable worksheet showing data for all schools that received payments from card issuers (which can also be accessed here).
1. Penn State Alumni Association: $2,742,743 from FIA Card Services, N.A.
2. Alumni Association of the University of Michigan: $1,800,000 from FIA Card Services, N.A.
3. University of Southern California: $1,505,550 from FIA Card Services, N.A.
4. University of Tennessee: $1,428,571 from Chase Bank USA, N.A.
5. California Alumni Association (Berkeley): $1,353,450 from FIA Card Services, N.A.
6. General Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: $1,250,000 from FIA Card Services, N.A.
7. Association of Former Students of Texas A&M University: $1,209,702 from FIA Card Services, N.A.
8. The University of Georgia Foundation: $1,157,737 from FIA Card Services, N.A.
9. Yale University: $1,140,000 from Chase Bank USA, N.A.
10. Boston College: $1,100,000 from GE Capital Retail Bank

The full data set for 2012:

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