Posting its strongest growth in a decade, the American Automobile Association said participation in its Visa and MasterCard programs rose 18% in 1994, bringing total cards issued to 3.8 million.

The Orlando-based motor club federation also said at its annual meeting in San Antonio that its nine participating banks have opened about three million AAA accounts. About 2.4 million of them are Visa; the rest, MasterCard.

A pioneering affinity card marketer that has been in the credit card business since 1978, AAA said outstanding balances rose by more than 21% last year, to $1.9 billion. Transaction volume was up nearly 19%, to $3.7 billion.

Maintaining its status as the largest single seller of American Express travelers checks, AAA reported sales of $2.5 billion in 1994.

"Driving this success are unique AAA benefits and competitive rates and fees, a combination members have found very attractive," said James J. Gudinas, managing director of AAA Financial Services.

AAA offers personal check-cashing services at participating club offices and waives the normal $50 liability clause if its cards are lost or stolen and the issuing bank is notified.

The federation also allows its cardholders to buy American Express travelers checks as a merchandise purchase rather than a more costly cash advance.

In February, AAA announced plans to build on its existing programs by forming a financial services company that will own a federally insured banking institution and enter into a "strategic partnership" with an established player.

The federation then reached out to 46 companies to learn whether they had any interest in making such an arrangement. At least 25 responded positively, AAA said.

AAA said it might later acquire accounts owned initially by its partner, which should be chosen by summer.

Hoping to gain the upper hand, Mellon Bank Corp. and U.S. Bancorp formed an alliance in March to offer credit cards, auto loans, and an array of other services to AAA members. Both banks have been AAA card issuers, and Mellon is acquiring U.S. Bancorp's 480,000 accounts as part of the alliance.

The not-for-profit federation consists of 121 motor clubs with more than 1,000 offices offering more than 37 million members in the United States and Canada travel, insurance, and auto-related services.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.