The companies marketing a new cobranded supermarket card are hoping to attract customers by eliminating interest on grocery purchases while allowing cardholders to revolve the rest of the balance.

Statements for the ShopRite MasterCard, issued by Valley National Bank, Wayne, N.J., will separate supermarket purchases from other purchases. Shoppers who revolve balances will be charged interest only on outside purchases as long as they pay their grocery bills in full each month.

The incentive is that consumers can get rebates on all purchases made with the card while revolving only a portion of the bill.

"You can manage your food purchases in full, but finance everything else that may have been bought in the month," said Edward Lawrence, senior vice president for the bank.

The interest-free option makes the card especially attractive to consumers, an industry watchdog group said, but cardholders must be particularly wary to pay off their grocery bills each month.

"For people who are going to be spending money at the market anyway, these rebate cards can be a real benefit to a cardholder," said Ruth Susswein, executive director, Bankcard Holders of America, McLean, Va.

The bank and the supermarket chain share the same regional demographic for the card, which will be available in late June. ShopRite, part of the Wakefern Food Corp., a cooperative headquartered in Elizabeth, N.J., has 186 locations in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut.

The cobranded card carries no annual fee and has a six-month introductory annual percentage rate of 7.9%, which becomes 7.9% above prime for gold cards and 9.9% above prime for classic cards. There is also a 9.9% balance transfer option good for two years.

Cardholders get a 2% rebate for ShopRite purchases and 1% rebate when they buy items elsewhere. Rebates arrive each month in the form of $5 coupons redeemable at ShopRite checkout counters.

The ShopRite MasterCard can be used by shoppers to participate in ShopRite's Price Plus program which offers its members weekly in-store discounts.

"We are sure the other cards do not provide these features," said John Harris, senior vice president at Valley National.

The interest-free feature on the ShopRite card is similar to one offered on the Shell Oil MasterCard, issued by Chase Manhattan.

Valley National Bank has 40,000 card accounts and had $22,066,000 in receivables at yearend. It specializes in township and educational fund affinity cards.

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