Pursuing a public interest theme, Commerce Bancorp said it plans to issue a Visa affinity credit card to residents of a New Jersey town who will have a vested interest in using it.

One percent of each purchase made with the card will be returned to the general fund of Washington Township. The bank estimates that $20,000 in annual revenue will be used to support the city's parks, recreation services, and other programs.

Similar initiatives are being planned for another 12 locations, according to David A. Flaherty, the bank's vice president of marketing.

"There's a lot of interest in it from municipalities," said Mr. Flaherty. "It gives them the opportunity to find a new source of income."

The card for Washington Township offers an introductory annual percentage rate of 8.9% for the first six months and a fixed annual rate of 16.9% thereafter. It does not have an annual fee.

Vernon W. Hill 2d, chairman and president of the $2.3 billion- asset bank, described the initiative as an "ideal example" of helping residents invest in their community.

"As a community-based bank, Commerce is continually developing innovative new services that directly benefit our local customers," said Mr. Hill.

Credit card programs with built-in public interest incentives are becoming increasingly popular with cash-starved municipalities. Last September, Valley National Bank of Wayne, N.J., and MasterCard launched such a venture in South Orange.

Visa said that several of its members have partnered with municipalities, including Lebanon Valley National Bank, which launched a program last November with the town of Lebanon, Pa.

In April 1994, Commerce Bank and Trust Co. teamed up with a Massachusetts school board to offer a Visa card.

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