American Express Co. and Banco Popular of Puerto Rico have begun issuing Amex credit cards-a year after they announced an agreement to do so.

Banco Popular, the largest issuer of Visa and MasterCard cards in Puerto Rico, is marketing the cards to upscale consumers, said Fabio Garcia, assistant vice president at the bank. The interest rate on the card, 9.75% for six months and 15.95% thereafter, is a point lower than Banco Popular's Visa and MasterCard cards.

The annual fee on the Amex card is $35 for basic cards and $55 for gold.

The alliance is American Express' first of this kind with a North American Visa and MasterCard member, said James Li, president of American Express Global Networks.

The bank card associations' U.S. membership rules prevent comarketing with American Express. The deal with Banco Popular, which Mr. Li described as having "an increasingly larger presence in North America," brushes up against those rules.

About a year ago Banco Popular began issuing bank credit cards in six markets in the United States, primarily targeting the Hispanic population.

Separately, American Express said Filabanco of Ecuador has begun issuing Amex cards, following an agreement between the companies reached in January.

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