Citizens Bank of Providence, R.I., has introduced an affinity card that pays a bonus to any charity the cardholder designates.
The bank, which unveiled another affinity card last fall, said its newest is the only such card in the nation.
Every time the card is used, the bank will set aside 25 cents in a Good Citizens contribution account. At the end of 12 months, the cardholder will receive a check for up to $300 made out to the organization chosen.
A card that benefits charities instead of the cardholder - "the philosophic flip side" of the affinity card concept - generates a lot of emotional energy, said Mark J. Formica, president of the bank. "People can get more excited about dollars they can give" than those they can receive, he said.
Citizens, a subsidiary of $14 billion-asset Citizens Financial Group, began marketing the Good Citizens Visa card to residents of Rhode Island and Connecticut Last week. It will do so in Massachusetts this week.
The bank is introducing the card to nonprofits in each state and encouraging them to give promotional materials to members. If the card is successful in the region, Citizens may market it nationally, Mr. Formica said.
Fran Dale, president of Entandem, a Reston, Va., consulting firm, said the bank is hitting the market at a time when consumers are asking for more choices. "Consumers like the fact that they have some options," she said, "that they have a say in the value-back proposition."
The no-fee card comes with a 7.9% introductory rate. After six months the rate jumps to prime plus 7.9%; that would now work out to 16.15%.
Cardholders who are eligible can request credit lines of as much as $25,000, the bank said, and will have the option of transferring balances from other cards.
The bank said it expects the card to raise tens of thousands of dollars for hundreds of local organizations - such as a parent-teacher organizations, soup kitchens, environmental groups, and churches - in its initial year.
"Citizens Bank has made it a corporate priority to support nonprofit organizations in our community, and we want to be supportive of our customers who also make donations," said Lawrence K. Fish, chairman and chief executive of Citizens Financial Group, in a release. The Good Citizens Card "gives people a choice of where they want to donate their money."
Citizens Bank said it has 145,000 cards in use, with outstanding balances of $175 million.
The affinity card it introduced in the fall, the Save the Bay Visa, is named for a group dedicated to improving the condition of the Narragansett Bay. The 25-year-old organization will receive $3 for every approved cardholder and 0.5% on their purchases.
The bank also issues an affinity product with the Rhode Island Bar Association.