Applying for a credit card in 2024 is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure experience, winding your way through lists of benefits and fees to determine what, exactly, the piece of plastic or metal in your wallet will do for you (besides get you into debt). In a world of company cards, corporate sponsors, and gaming rewards to squeeze out as much as possible, Marblehead once considered throwing its hat into the ring.
In 1999, the Board of Selectmen appointed a committee to study a new Marblehead credit card — an “affinity card” to be issued by a bank that would give a percentage of purchases back to the town for a specific purpose. A Daily Evening Item story from the time notes that several other communities and organizations had similar cards, including Newton, Chelsea, and South Orange, N.J., using them to generate revenue for certain projects.
The sales pitch seemingly writes itself: “Want the town to pave that pothole in your neighborhood? Make sure you use your Marblehead card!”
At the time, the selectmen declined to name a member of the board as a liaison to the committee, which was made up of town Accountant Bart Snow, Finance Committee Chair Charles Gessner, Town Administrator Tony Sasso, and Anita Poss, who first proposed the idea. Poss also suggested a representative from the Chamber of Commerce sit on the committee, but the chamber declined the invitation on the basis it would be a conflict of interest.
The chamber’s executive director, Leslie Gould, said the organization would want to reap some of the financial reward from the kickbacks to benefit the business community.
The Metropolitan Credit Union sent a letter to the selectmen expressing interest in establishing what it called a “strategic alliance” with the town to create and implement the affinity card.
As far as this reporter can tell from browsing The Item‘s archives (a major shoutout to newspapers.com for enabling me to do so), the project never got off the ground.