A Z-Card looks like a credit card, fits into a wallet like one, but is useless at the cash register.
That hasn't stopped Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and MBNA Corp. from trying to get it into the hands of consumers.
The card companies, ever vigilant for ways to gain a marketing edge, have used the Z-Card to advertise products and services.
For example, last summer for the Olympics, Visa International passed out 100,000 Atlanta at a Glance Z-Cards.
When unfolded, one side showed a map featuring automated teller machine locations, Olympic sites, Visa sites, and public transit information; the other side had information about Visa's Olympic sponsorship.
A Visa spokeswoman said the promotional tool had been used in three previous Olympics. Visa thought it was a natural fit because it looked like a card, conveyed useful information, and could be kept as a memento of the games, she said.
Z-Card North America, based in New York, has been issuing these card- size brochures for five years. The company said it expects to make more than 12 million of them this year.
Jonelle Hawkins, marketing manager, explained the reason for the name: As the brochure unfolds, it looks like a Z.
Wells Fargo gave out Z-Cards in its branches after buying First Interstate, to let customers know where to find Wells Fargo Express ATMs, a spokeswoman said. First Chicago NBD Corp. and MasterCard International have also used the card to advertise ATM locations.
Volkswagen, which is marketing a cobranded card issued by MBNA, used the Z-Card to sell cars.