By introducing a frequent flier card with Trans World Airlines last week, European American Bank took major step in a quest to become more than a bit player in the national credit card market.

The affinity announcement came after the Uniondale, N.Y.-based based bank, owned by ABN Amro Holding, added $45 million in balances by acquiring the credit card portfolio of New York-based Apple Bank for Savings in September 1992.

"Frequent flier programs present the most value in credit cards," said William Redman, senior vice president for retail credit at European American. He said the bank has high hopes of adding quickly to the $150 million in receivables it has now.

Airline Canceled Deal with Chase

TWA's three-year frequent flier program with Chase Manhattan Corp. was canceled in February. Although TWA said the program was successful, analysts claimed that the airline's financial problems made the deal too costly for the bank. TWA is still trying to pull itself out of bankruptcy.

According to Evelyne Gaidot, the staff vice president of business marketing for TWA. the airline "had some feelers out to various banks" and three banks aside from European American submitted proposals.

She said EAB stood out because it was willing to offer both the Visa and MasterCard brands for the card - as TWA wanted. What's more, she said, the bank indicated it wanted to make this frequent flier program its main affinity arrangement.

One Mileage Point per Dollar Charged

With the EAB-TWA card, consumers are awarded one mileage point on TWA for each dollar charged. They can gain additional mileage when they charge at any of the 19 companies that are partners in the TWA mileage program.

Mr. Redman said his bank's offer is "the most generous one out there" in part because the miles do not expire as they do with some other frequent flier programs.

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