Advanta Corp. has pushed back its day in court with Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International.

The eighth-largest bank card issuer, after Being slapped in early December with lawsuits from the two bank card associations, sued them over the right to maintain a comarketing agreement with American Express Co.

The three litigants signed a "standstill agreement," which was to expire this Wednesday, but Advanta obtained an extension through the end of February.

The agreement prevented Advanta from marketing a credit card it introduced in November with American Express called Rewards Accelerator. Visa and MasterCard agreed not to take legal action against Advanta in the interim.

Some industry observers said the agreement presented an opportunity for the companies to reach a settlement out of court, but a spokeswoman for Advanta said that there has been no change.

The hearing in February will determine whether Advanta can resume selling the card, which lets customers accumulate Membership Rewards points with American Express.

Visa and MasterCard claim that Rewards Accelerator inappropriately links their trademarks with a competitor, American Express.

Shortly after the lawsuits were filed, Visa's general counsel, Paul A. Allen, said, "American Express is a raw nerve to Visa. Everyone knows that, so given that historical context of intense sensitivity I think it is all the more puzzling that this program rolled out in the way it did."

Also in December, Visa U.S.A.'s president, Carl Pascarella, said, "We can't afford a member to rent out the Visa brand for their own well-being alone."

Visa claims that Advanta could have discussed its plans regarding American Express with the association before announcing it publicly.

Visa and Advanta are now haggling over where the February hearing will take place.

Visa wants the hearing to be near its headquarters in San Francisco. Spring House, Pa.-based Advanta is pushing for Philadelphia; spokeswoman Phyllis Hoffman said that is the one place all the suits could be resolved, since her company's and MasterCard's were both filed there.

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