In a move that could draw countless credit card customers away from banks, Sears, Roebuck and Co. is quietly asking its customers to convert its private-label cards - which can be used only at Sears stores - to general-purpose MasterCards.

Sears is already the largest issuer by far of private-label cards, and its $26.79 billion card loan portfolio is larger than those of some of the biggest bank card issuers - including Bank of America Corp., Providian Financial Corp., Capital One Financial Corp., and FleetBoston Financial Corp.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.