By Liz Hoffman and AnnaMaria Andriotis 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is seeking to acquire General Motors Co.'s credit-card business, doubling down on consumer banking and betting on a future where people pay for gas, takeout and groceries from the driver's seat.

The Wall Street firm is among a small number of bidders for the auto maker's credit-card business, which has about $3 billion in outstanding balances, according to people familiar with the matter.

There is no guarantee that GM will ultimately choose to replace its current card issuer, Capital One Financial Corp., or that Goldman will win. Barclays PLC is also in the running, some of the people said, and a decision is expected in the next few weeks.

Goldman launched its first credit card last year, partnering with Apple Inc. and positioning it as a tech-enabled and secure alternative to an outdated product rife with fraud. The Apple card is digitally issued onto users' iPhones in minutes and uses location data to categorize and track spending.

The bank agreed not to launch another co-branded card for about another year, according to people familiar with the matter, but has been open about its desire to add more merchants. It will have to unseat big banks that dominate the co-brand space, including Synchrony Financial and Citigroup Inc., whose former head of card partnerships, Scott Young, Goldman hired in 2017 to pursue similar deals.

Capital One has issued the GM card since 2012 and still has about a year left on the contract.

In their pitches to GM, Goldman and Barclays have pushed the idea of cars as e-commerce portals, people familiar with the matter said, an effort that the auto maker itself has embraced. GM was the first major car company to allow drivers to order food, pay for gas and book hotel stays from dashboard touch screens, and it signed up merchants including Dunkin' Brands Group Inc. and Shell.

It is part of a broader effort to wire everyday gadgets to the web to encourage consumer purchases and gather data. This technology has been slow to take hold -- not everyone needs a refrigerator that says when the milk is running low -- but it taps into a broader trend of consumer spending becoming more seamless and digital. The coronavirus pandemic could add to the appeal by increasing demand for e-commerce and contactless pickup.

The push is supported by card networks such as Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., which make money when cards are swiped, virtually or not. These companies are eager to expand shopping beyond store checkout counters and websites.

A deal with GM would advance Goldman's ambitions on Main Street. Since launching its consumer arm, Marcus, four years ago, the firm has amassed $7 billion in loans and is aiming for $20 billion by 2025. Holders of the Apple Card had $2.3 billion in outstanding balances as of June 30.

Without a well-known consumer brand or physical branches to bring in customers, Goldman is turning to partnerships, hoping to turn iPhone users, GM drivers, Amazon shoppers and AARP members into Marcus customers.

In deals like the one being discussed, a new bank typically agrees to pay a small premium to buy an existing card portfolio and hopes to make up the money by encouraging more spending, signing up more cardholders, and cross-selling them on other products. The deals typically involve sharing of card interchange fees and other revenue.

It is not unusual for merchants to shop around for new issuers, often to negotiate a better financial arrangement. Walmart Inc. replaced Synchrony with Capital One in 2019, and Costco Wholesale Corp. traded American Express Co. for Citigroup in 2016.

Write to Liz Hoffman at liz.hoffman@wsj.com and AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 12, 2020 10:16 ET (14:16 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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