American Express Co. and Generale Bank of Belgium have joined to sell American Express card products.

The partners began working together in April when they announced plans to promote Amex cards in Generale Bank branches through take-one applications.

The joint venture, called Alpha Card c.v.b.a., will rely on Generale Bank's branch clientele, but will seek out customers of other banks as well.

American Express recently announced a similar deal with Credit Suisse of Switzerland, which formed a venture with Amex to handle all of Credit Suisse's card marketing, including its Visa cards and MasterCard/Eurocards. The arrangement raised eyebrows, because it represents the first time American Express has had a hand in supporting a Visa or MasterCard portfolio.

American Express also ceased all independent marketing of its products in Switzerland, folding its portfolio into the joint venture.

Similarly, American Express will turn over its proprietary card business in Belgium to Alpha Card, effectively halting independent marketing of its card products. Merchant acquiring and multinational corporate business card accounts in Belgium will stay with American Express.

Generale Bank also issues Visa and Eurocards, but it will keep those portfolios separate from the Amex joint venture, said American Express spokesman Toby Usnik.

"Every partnership we do has its own subtleties," said Mr. Usnik.

Generale Bank will own 79% of Alpha Card and American Express 21%. The joint venture will issue American Express' green, gold, and platinum charge cards.

"By expanding our card portfolio, particularly in the premium and business segments, we will further enhance our position in the card market in Belgium," said Peter Fimmers, Generale Bank marketing manager.

James Cracchiolo, president, American Express Travel Related Services International, said the partnership "offers tremendous growth potential for both companies" and is "particularly well-suited to the Belgian marketplace."

American Express has more than 40 such partnerships in 30 countries.

In a separate announcement, American Express and K&H Bank of Budapest said they will be partners in issuing American Express cards in the Hungarian currency, the forint.

K&H Bank will sign merchants to accept American Express cards. American Express said this will "significantly" increase the relevance of its brand in Hungary.

"Through strategic arrangements like this one with K&H, we are matching the global strengths of the American Express brand and worldwide service with the marketing and operations experience of strong local partners," Mr. Cracchiolo said.

American Express currently provides U.S. dollar-denominated cards in Hungary.

Separately, American Express said it has added Virgin Atlantic Airways to its Membership Rewards program. There are now 14 airlines participating.

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