The Armed Forces Benefit Association unveiled a tiered pricing schedule under which personnel whose credit histories are less than spit-shined can qualify for its cards.

The tight underwriting required for its 12.5%, no-fee credit cards has forced. the association's bank to reject 72% of applicants.

The bank hopes the addition of two new cards, with slightly higher interest rates, will decrease rejections to 57%.

The association, based in Alexandria, Va., has issued 112,000 credit cards through AFBA Industrial Bank in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The bank's main mission is to provide financial services to military families and federal employees, but it accepts applications from others.

Rates as Low as 8.9%

Under the new pricing, customers with "superior" credit records will qualify for an 8.9% introductory rate.

After September 1994, this card converts to a floating rate of prime plus six percentage points with a floor of 12.5%. There is no annual fee.

A second rank of customers, with merely "excellent" credit records, would qualify for a no-fee card at prime plus seven points and a floor of 13.5%.

"Good'" credit risks could get cards with a $20 fee and a rate of prime plus nine. The minimum interest rate would be 15%.

The cards, either standard or gold, offer a 25-day grace period on purchases.

A bank spokesman said that all three levels of card are less expensive and harder to qualify for than the national average.

Banc One Corp. is testing a Visa Gold Card that carries no interest charges on purchases made through the end of the year.

Analysts said such offers could proliferate as issuers try to stimulate usage in a weak economy.

Similar to Signet Promotion

"Some economists are predicting a slow Christmas shopping season and this may prompt issuers to offer special pricing incentives," said Robert B. McKinley, of RAM Research Corp., Frederick Md.

The Banc One offer entails a $20 annual fee and, effective in January, a finance charge on unpaid balances of prime plus 9.9 percentage points, currently 15.9%.

Waivers of finance charges are not unprecedented. Signet Banking Corp. has tested a similar promotion to lure balances from competitors.

The card from Banc One's Columbus bank offers a 25-day grace period. There are penalties of $15 for late payment and exceeding the limit, and a transaction charge of $2 to $15 for cash advances.

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