First USA Inc. has successfully pitched affinity credit card deals to four Major League Baseball teams. The fourth-ranked issuer of bank cards has signed agreements to issue affinity cards for the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Florida Marlins, and Philadelphia Phillies. Baseball has attracted renewed attention in recent weeks in the credit card industry, with both Visa U.S.A. and MBNA Corp. close to completing major advertising and merchandising deals with the big leagues and First Union Corp. winning an affinity deal with the Atlanta Braves. "Because of Visa's upcoming national sponsorship . . . , the baseball owners asked us to issue only Visa cards," said Stuart Upson, vice president, sports marketing for First USA in Delaware. First USA will begin issuing classic, gold, and platinum Visa cards customized with each team's name and logo on baseball season's opening day, April 1. The no-fee cards are to feature an introductory interest rate of 6.9% for five months, which then climbs to a fixed rate of 17.9%. Application forms for the cards are to be available at home games and through telemarketing, direct mail, and a toll-free number. They will also be accessible through the teams' and First USA's Web sites. First USA's other sports ties are with hockey, basketball, football, and tennis. Only three major league baseball teams remain unsigned with a credit card issuer - the Montreal Expos, Toronto Blue Jays, and Colorado Rockies.

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