Reaching out to small businesses in California, BankAmerica Corp. has introduced a credit card offering optional overdraft protection and management reports.

The BankAmericard Visa Business Card offers credit lines from $2,500 to $100,000. Requests of up to $25,000 will be resolved within 24 hours, the bank said.

Jerry Bowman, who heads Bank of America's business banking division, said the card "reemphasizes our commitment to the small business market."

Small businesses have been cited by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as the national economy's fastest growing service sector, according to Visa. They have a growing demand for commercial loans under $50,000 for working capital, equipment purchases, and other needs.

Businesses may designate a part of their line of credit to cover overdrafts. Customers needing to access those funds are charged 2% of the amount withdrawn, or a minimum of $2.

Overdraft withdrawals can be made only in multiples of $50, so customers owing, say, $8, would have to take out $50, and it is on that higher amount that they would be assessed.

Stephen Galasso, in charge of product management for the credit card division, said the overdraft feature, "protects the integrity of businesses and eliminates the embarrassment over temporarily insufficient funds or bounced checks."

Businesses can also choose management reports ranging from account recap and vendor analysis to individual activity and airline spending, enabling them to monitor and control expenditures.

The annual fee for each business card is $25, which includes two standard yearend reports. If a company opts for the management report, card fees range up to $45 depending on the number issued. For example, if a business orders between 25 and 49 cards, the cost is $40 each; 50 to 99 cards would cost $35 apiece.

Annual percentage rates on the card vary based on the number of other qualifying business relationships, such as checking or interest checking accounts, that the participating company maintains Bank of America. Businesses with two such relationships, for example, receive a variable rate that is set quarterly based on the prime plus 6.65%, while those without any are hit with the prime plus 11.15%.

The bank's announcement comes on the heels of a Visa report contending that small companies using the San Francisco-based association's business card could reduce their borrowing by 75%.

The study, entitled "Visa Business: A Profitable Approach to Small Business Lending," recommends the card as an alternative to traditional lending processes for commercial loans of less than $50,000.

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