DataCard Corp. is marketing a way for issuers of cobranded and affinity cards to custom print them with whatever image the cardholder wants.
The images can also be bigger than what appears on most cards, said the Minneapolis company, a specialist in card embossing and design.
The advance comes from new software for its DataCard 9000 system. The software will let issuers print color photographs, signatures, and bank identification numbers as one image and store that image digitally for reissuing cards.
Tim Riley, vice president of DataCard's central issuance unit, said the enhancement would help banks entice customers to sign up for the cards, increasing revenue.
Mr. Riley said the software can produce images up to two inches square. Typically, bank card images are about three-quarters of an inch square, he said.
MBNA Corp.'s Purina cobranded card uses DataCard technology. The card, which was made available in January, can be personalized with a two-inch- square photograph of the cardholder's pet.
DataCard's basic system produces up to 350 small-image cards an hour. The enhanced system turns out big-image cards that fast and small-image cards twice as fast.
Lou Bisasky, general manager of Malco Plastics, North America's biggest manufacturer of plastic cards, said he was impressed with DataCard's overall effort and noted that it has no significant competitors.
"Banks believe that if we, as consumers, have something we feel close to or identify with, we'll use that card more often," said Mr. Bisasky, whose company is based in Owings Mills, Md.
However, he said, banks will have to pay a higher price. The cost of digitizing images will increase the cost of card production from less than $1 to $3, Mr. Bisasky said.
"They're trying to create brand loyalty," he said. "They may think that it is worth spending more money in issuing credit cards if they can make the cardholder feel an affinity to the card."