RICHMOND, Va. - Central Fidelity Bank hopes the magic of the Brazilian soccer legend Pele rubs off on its credit card business.

Last month, Central Fidelity became thefirst U.S. bank to issue a MasterCard with Pele's image on it, anticipating the 1994 World Cup soccer tournament - of which MasterCard International is a corporate sponsor.

The New York-based card association expects more of its member banks to issue cards next year commemorating the all-time great soccer player and the World Cup.

"Certainly, it will tie our cardholders very closely to the World Cup," said Marianne Fulgenzi, director of special events marketing for MasterCard. "When they use the card, hopefully, they will feel special."

Next summer's World Cup will be the first held in the United States. MasterCard member banks can issue one of two Pele cards or a World Cup credit card through December 1995.

Promotional Interest Rate

"We think we have a very good, competitively priced card offer," said Betsy W. Wells, senior vice president for bank card marketing and sales at Central Fidelity. "We|re just capitalizing on Pele and World Cup excitement."

The subsidiary of $9.1 billion-asset Central Fidelity Banks Inc., which has 235 branches in Virginia and issues cards in Virginia. Maryland, and Washington. D.C., will accept applications for the Pele card nationally, Ms. Wells said.

To entice customers to switch from other cards, Central Fidelity offers a 9.9% promotional interest rate for 90 days on purchases and cash advances. All transactions made during the three months will stay at that rate until that portion of the balance is paid off.

As is the case with Central Fidelity's standard MasterCard, Gold MasterCard, and student cards, the fixed interest rate on the Pele card will be 15.6% on purchases - with a 25-day grace period and a $15 annual fee. A 14% rate and 2% fee will apply to cash advances.

|Very Pleased with It'

Enchancements include free convenience checks, skip-payment opportunities, a prepayment option allowing the cardholder to pay up to three months in advance, and overdraft protection on Central Fidelity checking accounts.

Central Fidelity issued the Pele card in time for promotional activities held in September in the Washington area, one of nine in which World Cup matches will be played.

"We wanted to do everything we could to get as much mileage out of the promotional activities." Ms. Wells said. "We've been very pleased with it. The number of applications has been very encouraging."

The Pele card will also help Central Fidelity attract younger cardholders, she said.

Central Fidelity has 319,456 credit card accounts and $447 million in outstandings. Recently, it lowered the promotional rate on its standard MasterCard from 12% to 9.9% and opened that rate up to new purchases.

Many banks have used the so-called "teaser" rates, but Ms. Wells said Central Fidelity differs by giving consumers as long as they need to pay off balances incurred during the promotional period. This is seen as particularly useful during the holiday season

|Hand over Fist'

"It doesn't matter to us how long it takes to pay it off," Ms. Wells said.

She said there are no plans for television, print, or radio advertising for the Pele card. The bank is continuing ads for its standard card, which have brought in applications "hand over fist."

A direct marketing campaign for the Pele card will begin next year.

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