Chase Manhattan Corp. on Monday unveiled an affinity card program with British Airways, the first such program by a U.S. bank with a foreign-based airline.
Holders of the cobranded Visa card can accumulate frequent-flier points for domestic and international travel on British Airways, its affiliate U.S. Air, U.S. Air Express, and Alaska Airlines.
In an unusual twist, Chase is permitting as many as four people in a household to consolidate mileage credits on a single account, and will provide additional cards at no fee to users of the "householding" feature.
Analysts see the product as a response to a card market that has grown more competitive with the lure of mileage credits.
"Airline affinity cards are marginally profitable," said Moshe A. Orenbuch, a banking analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. "It's not a bad move."
Said Thomas C. Lynch, executive vice president of Chase's credit card division: "There are far more people flying for pleasure and vacations."
The British Airways introduction comes six months after Chase terminated a 5-year-old frequent-flier card with Trans World Airlines, which had gone into bankruptcy protection. Chase plans to target its marketing to former TWA cardholders.
Among other noteworthy frequent-flier tie-ins are Citicorp's with American Airlines and First Chicago Corp.'s with United Airlines. An American Express Travel Related Services Co. program allows participants to accumulate credits on many airlines.
The Chase-British Airways card comes in a gold version, costing $65 a year and carrying an interest rate on purchases of prime plus 9.4%, and a standard classic Visa, at $50 a year with a prime plus 10.9% rate. The rate on cash advances is fixed at 19.8%.
|Not for Everyone'
As an enrollment incentive, Chase will credit $50 to $1,000, depending on flight class, to the accounts of people taking trans-Atlantic British Airways flights through mid-September.
Unlike some frequent-flier programs, Mr. Lynch said, there are no blackout periods for British Airways trans-Atlantic flight awards.
Customers must spend up to $20,000 to qualify for a free domestic flight and $40,000 for a trans-Atlantic flight.
"If you are a frequent-flier and a big spender, you can do well with this card," said Robert B. McKinley, president of RAM Research Corp., Frederick, Md. "This is not for everyone."