The BP Oil cobranded credit card resembles its predecessors in rebate structure, but claims an edge in fees, rates, and the rebate amount.

It took Banc One Corp. of Columbus, Ohio, and BP, the Cleveland-based U.S. subsidiary of British Petroleum Co., nearly a month to release details about the program after announcing it in late June.

The Visa-branded card will be introduced tO BP customers later this summer. It carries a 3% rebate on BP gasoline and a 1% rebate on other purchases.

Cardholders can earn up to $300 in free gasoline a year, without paying an annual fee. The card comes with an 8.9% introductory interest rate.

Shell, Amoco Rates Higher Compared with the Shell MasterCard, introduced last year by Chemical Bank, and the Amoco Visa card program from Associates National Bank of Delaware, a Ford subsidiary, BP offers a lower interest rate and may go further on rebates.

"During testing this showed up to be better than the Shell product, but time will tell," said John A. Russell, a Banc One spokesman.

According to a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Research report, Banc One expects to add close to one million cardholders to its list of more than 20 million. This could add $1 billion in balances over several years.

The Shell card got off to a quick start, with 1.7 million cards issued in its first two months. To date, Shell MasterCard holders have earned $26 million in free gas from the program, company officials reported last week.

Shell Gives 2% Rebate

Shell cardholders earn a 2% rebate on gasoline purchases and 1% on general purchases. After the first $70 in rebates, cardholders get only 1% off Shell gas purchases. The card comes with a $20 annual fee and an interest rate of prime plus 11.4%.

Amoco offers rebates similar to Shell's, but has no annual fee and a variable interest rate set monthly, depending on the balance, up to 17.9%.

Gas Cardholders Targeted

As lending rates rise with the prime, consumers may be attracted to the BP card, which after a year at the 8.9% rate jumps to 9.9% plus prime, said Ginny Sinko, a BP spokeswoman. Currently, that would be 17.15%.

Initially, the card will be mailed to many of BP's existing four million credit cardholders. By contrast, Shell marketed to nine million people at first, including four million holders of its gas card.

BP also plans an extensive advertising campaign, which includes television, radio, newspaper, direct mail, and point of sale materials at gas stations, to support the introduction of the new card.

The petroleum company will continue to offer its proprietary BP card.

BP owns 7,500 stations in more than two dozen states, primarily in the Midwest, Southeast, and the West Coast.

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