Bank South Corp. of Atlanta is raising the profile of its debit product by teaming with retailers who are offering 5% discounts on merchandise purchased with a Bank South Check Card.

Even though the card carries a name similar to Visa's off-line debit product, Visa Check, its is actually a MasterCard Debit product.

The $6 billion-asset bank hopes the incentive will promote customer usage and thereby clear up any confusion about how debit cards work.

"We want to differentiate our product from our competitors'," said George F. Dick, senior vice president and advertising director.

Mr. Dick believes Bank South may be the first issuer to develop such a promotion with a debit card on its own. Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International have been promoting their debit products regionally with issuers and merchants. A MasterCard spokeswoman said Bank South's promotion is the most aggressive and innovative to date.

Bank South, which has about 200,000 debit card accounts, negotiated partnerships with the Kroger Co. and approximately 15 other merchants.

May Be Renewed

The discounts are available in pockets across Georgia where Bank South and Kroger have a presence. The promotion will end on Nov. 1, said Mr. Dick, who added that he may be signing up more merchants. If the promotion becomes a success, the bank may renew it.

Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the country, offered a similar discount to the bank's customers a couple of years ago.

Senior citizens, who already get a 5% discount at Kroger stores on Wednesdays, would also be eligible for the debit card discount, reducing their bill by 10% on those days.

Bank South is absorbing a hefty marketing bill by advertising the discount on television, in print, transit shelter posters, direct mail, and statement inserts.

"We are pushing this in every possible way you could imagine," said Mr. Dick.

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