A credit card depicting a local beach scene keeps residents of a small Virginia retirement community thinking of home when they travel and shop.

The Bank of Lancaster, White Stone, Va., offers its Memories Visa card as an ancillary product to retain customers.

The card displays a painting of White Stone Beach by a local artist. Although the card does not offer anything unusual by way of interest rates or annual fees, it has built a loyal member base.

"The people we market to are more well-informed about financial issues and things associated with credit cards," said David Cook, assistant vice president for the bank. "The advantage we have over the larger bank is that they are selling price. We have superior personal service."

The Bank of Lancaster caters to a community where the average age is 46. The bank has assets of $160 million, and receivables are $500,000. With 650 accounts and approximately 1,000 cards, the average outstanding balance is about $921.

The annual fixed interest rate on the card is 14.9%, and it costs $25 or $50 a year for people under 62 after the first year, which is free. It is free for people over 62 who join the bank's Golden Advantage program, which gives them free or discounted checking and savings account services. The card has no transaction or cash advance fees.

Mr. Cook said the bank wants to keep its card base small, because, with 65 employees and three branches, it is not staffed to handle a large card program.

"We do not want to market outside of our area," said Mr. Cook. "We don't want millions of cardholders."

He added that the bank has offered a credit card only for the past four years, and it is used primarily for shopping and travel.

Theresa Ransone, Golden Advantage operations officer, describes the card as a "bow around the box," adding that customers are less likely to leave if they have more than one bank service.

The Bank of Lancaster competes against Signet Bank and two local banks for market share.

According to information from Payment Systems Inc., Tampa, Fla., those over 50 have more cards on average than younger users but also tend to revolve less. Although they tend to be convenience users, they are also a stable group.

"They are not portfolio hoppers and they make a savvy decision," said Anne Morgan Moore, president of Synergistics Research Corp., Atlanta. "They don't have the energy to chase around for the best rate. When they get the card, they will stick with you."

In the case of the Bank of Lancaster, Mr. Cook said it makes a profit on the interchange rate as well as finance charges from revolving accounts.

Mr. Cook also said that in addition to being stable, his accounts have very little bad debt.

"People here are inherently honest and pay their bills, he said."

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