First USA Inc. will step up to the tee with a golf affinity card to benefit Professional Golfers Association tournament charities.
The deal comes in the wake of an unsuccessful cobranded PGA Tour Partners MasterCard by SunTrust Bankcard in Orlando. The two-year-old card has a fixed 18.15% rate and a $35 annual fee, with discounts on golf clothing and golf vacation packages.
Industry observers said the cobranded SunTrust card has struggled because few golf aficionados have responded. Dallas-based First USA said it designed its new affinity program to capitalize on the loyalty of golf fans, without offering rebates.
"I'm very surprised that First USA would choose to revamp a product that has been tried before and failed so many times," said Michele Turkel, president of Spectrum International Consulting Corp., Scarsdale, N.Y.
The First USA no-fee MasterCard begins with a five-month introductory interest rate of 5.9%, which jumps to a 17.9% fixed rate.
In the 1980s, large issuers like Chase Manhattan Corp. and the former Chemical Banking Corp. had marginal success with golf cards; Mellon Bank Corp. issues a PGA affinity card on a limited basis.
Last summer, American Express Co. got into the game with a no-fee American Express Golf card.
With spending paid for by the card, consumers earn points they can redeem for golf equipment and golf vacations.
The status of SunTrust's Partners MasterCard has been in question since its servicing partner, Ideon Group Inc., ceased marketing support just six months after the product launching.
The SunTrust card unit continued to offer the card but hasn't marketed it actively.
Leslie Doty, senior vice president and director of marketing for SunTrust, said the bank did not wish to comment on the card's status.
But the First USA product is the only golf card that will be affiliated with the tours, said Mike Mueller, manager of consumer marketing for the PGA Tour.
"First USA came up with a plan that could benefit our PGA charities, and we decided to go with them," Mr. Mueller said.
A percentage of cardholder purchases will be donated to the PGA and Senior PGA tours, First USA said.
However, "golfers don't feel a strong allegiance to the PGA," said Ms. Turkel. "To see value, cardholders want something back."
Mr. Mueller did not rule out the possibility of offering cardholders rebates.
The tour cards will be available in standard, gold, and platinum versions.