Fifth Third Bancorp, Cincinnati, plans to put more marketing muscle into a cobranded credit card it launched this year with two Arizona newspapers.

In January, the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen, published jointly by Gannett Co. and Pulitzer Publishing Co. partnered with Fifth Third to offer subscribers a MasterCard with the intention of stemming attrition and attracting new readers.

Fifth Third, which issues credit cards primarily in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. benefits by gaining a foothold in a state where it had no presence.

Falling Short

However, the card, called Extra. has not met the newspapers' and Fifth Third's expectations. Only 500 people own the card 5.500 short of the goal. Fifth Third hopes to capture a larger audience with a new mailing in September.

"We are not really happy with the results," said Larry Martin, the newspapers' vice president of circulation.

Like other newspapers, the Daily Star and the Citizen have been offering a merchant discount Card to customers who pay for subscriptions a few months in advance. When readers present the cards, they get discounts at local merchants.

Greg Lutz, Fifth Third's vice president of consumer lending, said Extra may be the only cobranded credit card offered by a bank and a daily newspaper. "A lot of people are watching our Tucson program," he said.

However, the Orange County Register, Santa Ana, Calif., and Marine Midland Bank, Buffalo, introduced a similar Visa affinity product last year, called ExtraCard.

Discount Card Popular

Since 1990, when the discount card became available, 70,000 Arizonans have signed on. It was those customers that Fifth Third targeted out of a subscriber base of 120,000. The September mailing will include the entire subscriber base, as well as the Tucson community. The Extra MasterCard has a 9.9% introductory rate through December. In 1995, the rate will be based on the prime rate plus 8.9%, which would be 16.15% currently. Readers who pay for their subscriptions 24 weeks in advance pay no annual fee, while nonsubscribers pay $45. David Rose, Fifth Third's assistant vice president of consumer lending, said the card's primary benefit, is its low pricing and the discount card, which is honored at about 1,000 local merchants.

Unlike most cobranded partnerships, the Extra MasterCard program requires that the customer carry two cards in his or her wallet to qualify for all the program's benefits. Cardholders can get merchant discounts only by presenting the discount card.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.