The Washington Redskins said yesterday they would no longer require season ticket holders who buy their seats with a credit card to use a Redskins Extra Points MasterCard, dropping a policy the team had announced only a week ago.
An official with the credit card company said it had asked the Redskins to drop the requirement and to allow Redskins fans to use any MasterCard when they buy their seats, and that the team had agreed. MasterCard generally does not allow merchants to accept only one type of its co-branded or affinity cards over others, the official said.
The NFL Extra Points program, under which the NFL's 32 teams issue credit cards with their names on it, "is a new program, and while we have not made any determination that [the Redskins] were in violation of the rules or not, we have asked them to accept all MasterCard cards," said MasterCard spokesman Chris Monteiro. "They have agreed to do so and they will accept all kinds of MasterCards for this purchase."
Redskins spokesman Michael Sitrick said that "although the Redskins do believe they were in compliance, at MasterCard's request they have agreed as an accommodation to accept all brands of MasterCard for payments of general admission tickets, and not just Redskins' brand MasterCards."
The requirement that fans use a Redskins credit card, which would have affected those buying tickets to FedEx Field's 66,500 regular admission seats, was announced last week in a letter to season ticket holders. Since 2000, Redskins fans have been able to use any credit card to buy their seats, and have always been able to pay by cash or personal check. The team will continue to accept cash or checks, as well as any type of MasterCard, for seats next season.
Some officials in the credit card industry had noted that the Redskins' requirement that fans use only the Redskins Extra Points Card was highly unusual. Visa International, in addition to MasterCard, does not allow merchants to restrict their acceptance of one type of card over another.
"This would have been a break with tradition," said David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, a credit card industry newsletter. "For 50 years, there has been no discrimination for purchases of goods and services depending on what bank issued you the card."
Redskins chief operating officer David Pauken said last week that the new Extra Points program, in which each dollar charged to the MasterCard earns cardholders points that can be redeemed for Redskins jerseys and souvenirs as well as such things as seat upgrades, was put in place this offseason to ease the ticketing process.
The effect of the Extra Points card on the team's profitability would be minimal, according to the Redskins. The Extra Points cards, issued by league sponsor MBNA Bank, help market the club's brand and allow the team to track its customers' spending habits, allowing more targeted advertising.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has earned a reputation as one of professional sports' most astute marketers, turning the Redskins and FedEx Field into one of the biggest revenue generators in the sports world. Since buying the team for $800 million in 1999, Snyder had boosted the stadium's capacity to 91,665, the largest in the NFL. He has opened a dozen team retail stores throughout the region, started a lucrative TailGate Club and added other revenue generators to the stadium and club brand over the years.
The Redskins are one of the most financially successful teams in sports, with a resale value estimated by some at $1 billion and an operating income of $70 million for the 2003 season, according to Forbes magazine.
The Redskins said yesterday that some fans may have misunderstood last week's mailing announcing the MasterCard Extra Points program to say that the ticket purchases on the credit card would be accompanied by a 3 percent transaction fee. That fee does not apply to MasterCard credit card holders.