Capital One Card Lab

Capital One launched Card Lab, which it claims is the first “do-it-yourself” credit card offer. It’s an interactive tool that lets prospective card applicants choose among a number of options to build their own card package. Not surprisingly, you can’t get a 25% annual bonus and 2 points per $1 charged and 1.25% back on purchases and….you get the picture (otherwise see below).

My take: Card Lab is a winner because it:

1) Builds up versus narrows down. To date, many financial services sites that have even bothered to try to help site users make a product choice have started from the premise of helping prospects choose from a list of product options. Tools like those from Experion Systems (which I really like) take an interview approach and make a product recommendation at the end of the process. This can leave prospects wondering what other options might have been available had they answered one or more questions differently.

Card Lab’s approach puts prospects in charge, and presents the options in such a way that they can easily see the tradeoffs they make when selecting certain options. With this approach, what might be perceived as a daunting range of product options is basically hidden from the prospect.

2) Engages with interactivity. Simply replicating a product options chart from offline collateral to online web page is a shameful misuse of the channel’s capabilities. Some firms have taken remedial steps like letting site users click on certain product feature descriptions to drill down to more information.

Card Lab, on the other hand, is a great demonstration of the interactivity the channel is capable of delivering. Serious prospects can play what-if to their hearts’ content in order to understand the product features and tradeoffs available to them. And, most importantly I think, they come away feeling like they’ve made the best decision for them.

3) Yields actionable data.
The web analytics folks at Cap One are going to have a field day with Card Lab. Analyzing the usage, trends, clickstream, etc. should help Cap One marketers get a really good understanding of who’s looking for cards online, what their preferences are, which features are most popular, and so on. And knowing Cap One, and what good marketers they are, they’ll use this data to develop and refine their offers and marketing programs.


To date, many financial services sites have relied on the “here’s the product data — make a choice and come back and we’ll take your order” mentality. What makes Card Lab so important is that it fills a gap in the buying cycle that few sites have effectively dealt with — the part where someone weighs their options and makes an informed choice.

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20 thoughts on “Capital One Card Lab

  1. Ron, at first glance, I agree that this has the potential to be a winner for the points numbers that you mention. It puts the customer in control. Customers always love it when that happens.

    The only thing that I question is: will there be enough customers who care to this level of detail about their credit card? Or is it a case of the now-impossibility of trying to choose toothpaste on the grocery store shelf. The variety of toothpastes is stunning. It’s a rather complex array of options… and I can’t quickly and easily tell what the differences are. I just want the minty-flavor, baking soda, teeth-whitening, tartar-control one.

    With the cards, I’m wondering if most people aren’t of the 100% mindset: “just give me the lowest rate period”, “just give me the best rewards period”, “just maximize my cash back at the end of the year”, and don’t bother me with the details. I don’t know that I care enough to jiggle a balance of these dimensions. But I eagerly await finding out how this site/card gets used.

  2. I love this concept in relation to financial products. Let people build their own products. You can customize your google homepage, why can’t you customize a checking account? May this is just the gen-y in me talking but it seems like a no brainer to me.

  3. @Morriss: You asked “will there be enough customers who care to this level of detail about their credit card?” And to that I would say, of all the financial products being sold today, maybe — just maybe — high-yield savings accounts comes close to being researched and applied for online. According to Jim Bruene at NetBanker, more than 9 million were shopping for cards online — in October alone. Of the people who research cards online, half want help making a product selection (that’s from some research I did at Forrester in 2006 — that number may have changed since then).

    But even if many people have a “just give me the lowest rate” card, what this tool does — AND I THINK THIS IS CRITICAL — is take a step towards TRANSPARENCY. Granted, an applicant still has to click over to the disclosures to find out that Cap One can increase the APR if customer pays late, etc. Which is really too bad, because Cap One doesn’t engage in universal default — which might earn them a little goodwill in the eyes of some customers.

    C’mon, Morriss — for someone who wants a world (2.0) “where people utilize today’s online technologies to interact and exist in the world that never would have been possible without it”, you’ve got to admit that Cap One took a step toward achieving that.

  4. David: Thanks for the link to Flexicard. I doubt Cap One looked very far afield before it claimed to have the first DIY card. But that Flexi music on Garanti’s site is enough to drive you crazy.

  5. @ Ron, absolutely, I agree that this is a step in the right direction, no doubt about it. Transparency is indeed awesome. I remember when I was doing research for what AMEX card I wanted, it was nearly to the point of the overwhelming variety that we see in toothpaste selection. I would have liked to see a nice grid of the options clearly explained.

    And BTW, we are all already living in World 2.0. It’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes it.

  6. I love the concept of giving power to the consumer. Then, there’s that interactive component (that creates extra-stickiness).

    I can’t wait to see results from years down the road. I’m betting that customers generated through this channel will be much more loyal than other customers.

  7. I predict this bombs for 2 reasons.
    – First of all, even with all the options, you are still left with a generic product that is no different from any other card you can get on the market. Try adding some interesting rewards or merchant partners and then maybe it’s got a chance.

    – Who wants to go through this process, its like asking someone to do a conjoint analysis to figure out what card they want. I’m sure the math geeks at Cap One love it, but I bet they find that most of the customers leave the sight in mid design

    Separately, this is not a new product at all. Bank of Montreal has had the Mosaic card for years, and there’s is even better in that you can change the functionality on your card without having to get a new one. That is a true loyalty driver

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  10. I found out some corporate numbers to capital one if anyone wants them. The 1800-955-7070 number will get you no where. “Senior account managers” at that nu,ber will apologize profusely and say that there is no one else who can help you besides them. Of, course, they will offer no help. The corporate office numbers are are 804-284-5xxx. Capital One seems to own most of the exchanges above 284-5200. If you try enough of them, you may actually get someone who will help. Some of their faxes are 804-284-5200, 804-284-5201, 804-284-5203, 804-284-5204, 804-284-5202, and 804-284-5704. god Bless the consumer!

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  12. Thanks for some great ideas. It’s a great prospect but all products require prospecting to find customers. I recently found a way to get customers with no prospecting and att and very little money. I had never seen this idea before. It works for business and consumer prospecting. I got the DVD and we are very happy with it. If you are looking for a really unique idea in not prospecting, take a look at

  13. Someone stole one of my check and used it to pay of his/her credit card.

    I am trying to find a phone number for someone who handles this.

    Their fraud department is set up to handled complaints by card holders and I am not a card holder

    Any ideas ?

  14. I located a few names and number to get you in the right direction with The Infamous Capital One…

    1-804-284-5798 is a Megan Vogal ( not so sure of last name)

    ext 5797 is a Eric Swinsen in Community Affairs but can direct you to Credit Service Person

    A Robin ( I think) is ext 5790 and her cell is 804-381-9295. She has to be someone pretty high if she has a company cell and gives it out on a voice mail for emergency purposes!

    I will keep you posted with new numbers …..


    Boston, Mass

  15. Hey Alan,

    if you have a check that was stolen start with your bank or the orginal issuer of the checks and file a complaint and stop payment and with capital one especially, the bank will resolve it and find out the owner of the account the payment was posted to. Just start there and tell me where you end up.

    Boston, Ma

  16. I can’t stomach Capital One anymore! If you have problems & call the toll free number, you’re getting one of their call centers in India…. if you ask to speak to an Account Specialist, they simply transfer you to a “floor manager” in India who cannot help you, but will give you ever pat excuse they have (it’s like they have a script to read or something). If you insist on speaking to someone in the US, they will tell you they cannot do that or will insist on knowing exactly why……. I finally got a US/Canada toll free number for them 1-866-330-4549… This is the fraud/dispute department but you can just tell them that you got transferred there by mistake and then go on to tell them your issue and they will at least *appear* to want to help……

    I’m glad someone posted their corporate numbers above… I’ve been back and forth on the phone with these people all week and have gotten absolutely nowhere.

  17. Got another number for Capital One Credit Cards…..


    This is the main switchboard and they can put you through to the Executive Response Team…

  18. Capital One is a total ripoff. Customer since 2002. Got my bill and my finance charge just went up to 24%. Two day late payment!

    We always pay the balance off, careful to make our payments ontime and this is what we get.

    I talked to 5 people and no one gave me any help at all! I can cut up my card and get an offer for 0% from Capital One the next day. This is ridiculous.

    This card is going in the hopper!!!!!!!!

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