CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (7/8/11)--The University of Illinois Alumni Association (UIAA) and the University of Illinois Employees CU (UIECU) are celebrating the first year of the Official Visa Card of the University of Illinois. In July 2010, UIAA selected the $252.6 million-asset, Champaign, Ill.-based UIECU, which has served University of Illinois families for nearly 80 years, to provide an Illinois-branded Visa credit card to its 625,000 members. The endorsement replaced a 19-year relationship with MBNA and its successor, Bank of America. UIAA said the credit union could provide better credit card terms and service to alumni than the major banks that have traditionally sponsored such affinity programs. In the first eight months of the program, the new partnership issued more University of Illinois-branded credit cards than any college or university during the previous calendar year nationwide. As part of the program, Illinois alumni and fans may carry one of six card designs representing the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses. Cardholders also have the option to enroll in a rewards program. In one year, more than 2.5 million points have been earned by the program’s cardholders--translating to hundreds of free airline flights. “One year later, our cardholders are already saving over $250,000 annually in interest expense due to our low rates,” said E.J. Donaghey, UIECU president/CEO. As part of the partnership, a royalty is paid to the university’s alumni association from the transaction fee paid by merchants when they accept the card for payment. The royalties help fund alumni association programs, communications and services that benefit alumni, students and the University of Illinois.