Many community banks offer credit cards just to round out their product lines. But at the nation's fifth-largest black-owned bank, the emphatic emphasis is on improving customers' access to credit and capital.

Liberty Bank and Trust Co. of New Orleans has only issued credit cards for three years. But the experience has helped the 25-year-old institution flourish: Through heavy marketing and a patchwork of affinity programs, the card product has helped Liberty grow from $50 million of assets in 1993 to $135 million today.

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