When Dominic Ng, chairman and chief executive officer of East West Bancorp in San Marino, Calif., learned that the long-distance telephone division of GTE Corp. was seeking to penetrate the Asian-American community, he sprang into action.

East West, a $2.1 billion-asset company that caters to the Chinese- American community, recently launched a joint rewards program with GTE that offers banking and long-distance perks to customers who sign up for personal or business checking accounts.

Among the handful of perks, GTE will offer 20% discounts on calls to Asian countries, and East West will throw in its PC banking product at no charge for six months.

The combined value of the limited offer-which expires Sept. 30-is about $400.

"We are always seeking to find tangible value for our customers," Mr. Ng said. "Every few months we plan to hook up with a major company to package a promotional deal."

Big banks are known for joint-promotion and cobranding arrangements. Just this week, for instance, Charlotte-based Bank of America launched a platinum Visa card with America West Airlines in Phoenix that offers frequent-flier benefits.

But more and more community banks are getting into the joint promotions game to strengthen customer loyalty, pick up new deposits, or gain fee revenue.

Whitney National Bank, a $5.2 billion-asset company in New Orleans, is partnering with Sisk Co. of Fort Worth to offer a discount program that includes medical, insurance, and travel services.

Whitney is marketing the program through its 120 branches to small businesses, whose employees would pay a $5.95 monthly fee.

Jim Hawkinson, a vice president at Whitney, said the program should be attractive to small businesses because "most do not offer such benefits to their employees."

Profits, as well as benefits to customers, are driving some joint promotion efforts.

Community West Bancshares, a $325 million-asset company in Goleta, Calif., recently formed a joint venture with a la Carte International LLC as a way to boost fee income.

Under the program, a la Carte will issue rewards cards that customers can use at retail stores and restaurants.

Points are accumulated and later redeemed for meals and other products. Community West, through its subsidiary Electronic Paycheck LLP, will use its proprietary software to track card use and collect fees for the service.

The more the cards are used, the more fees Community West will collect, said Doug King, president of Electronic Paycheck.

"We'll earn fees by the minute," he said.

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