LendingTree Inc., an on-line loan marketplace, is offering cash incentives to some borrowers who apply for First USA credit cards.
People who close mortgages, home equity loans, or auto loans through the LendingTree Web site can get rebates of up to $500 if they apply for a First USA credit card while seeking the other loan, the companies said.
The First USA division of Bank One Corp. has numerous relationships with Internet companies such as America Online, Yahoo, Excite, and the Microsoft Network, including some with on-line financial incentives. For instance, in a deal with Priceline.com, a shopping site in which people bid on merchandise and services, customers who apply for First USA cards can have their bids boosted by the card company.
Several major banking companies sell loan products through LendingTree, which is based in Charlotte, N.C. Chase Manhattan Corp. offers personal loans; Citigroup Inc. offers home equity loans and mortgages; and Bank One offers home equity loans.
LendingTree's service differs from other on-line loan marketplaces, which typically show customers a menu of products and let them apply for the ones they choose. LendingTree sends customer applications to multiple lenders and has them bid against one another to make the loan.
The customer gets up to four loan offers and can choose the best. LendingTree filters each loan application according to lenders' underwriting criteria, said Mitchell York, president of the marketplace.
Nothing guarantees that every applicant will get a loan offer, but Mr. York said his company is actively recruiting both prime and subprime lenders to meet a range of needs.
The service "has a great deal of benefit for lenders in reducing their origination costs," Mr. York said.
Under the agreement with First USA, loan applicants are prompted to apply for a First USA credit card. People who close mortgages through one of LendingTree's participating lenders-and qualify for the card-get a $500 credit on their card account. Closing a home equity loan earns $250 of credit; an auto loan, $150.
First USA of Wilmington, Del., said the program is "one further step" in its Internet marketing effort.
LendingTree funds the cash rewards, and First USA pays LendingTree a commission for every card account generated through its site.
"We've seen other on-line loan sites offering incentives, but we've made a conscious decision to offer consumers something they can always use- money," said Douglas Lebda, chief executive officer and founder of LendingTree.
LendingTree recently added credit cards to the mix of loan products it offers, and First USA has joined its network of issuers bidding for customers. Credit card seekers are asked to identify features that are most important to them, for example, low interest rate, low annual fee, rewards, or a high credit line.
"The demand for credit cards has been growing extremely fast," Mr. York said. "We are really starting to build up the credit card area."
First USA is offering standard Visa cards with no annual fee and a six- month teaser rate of 3.9%, which jumps to 9.99%. A variety of cards are to be offered eventually, the company said.