Wachovia Corp. expects its outstanding credit card balances - driven by aggressive promotion of its low-rate card - to rise to $2 billion over the next days, an increase of 7.6% since the end of last year. The bank's strong growth comes as many of the industry's card leaders are suffering erosion in outstanding as a result of high attrition rates.

Between 80% and 90% of the new cards issued by Wachovia have been at an annual rate 8.9%, according to Ray Costner, a marketing executive for Wachovia Bank Card Services. He said it was the lowest offered by any national provider.

To attract cardholders, the North Carolina-based banking company is offering - through its Georgia and North Carolina branch system - a $50 credit against the first purchase.

Robert K. Hammer, an investment banker who specializes in credit cards, likened the $50 credit to waiving two years' worth of fees. But he characterized it as a "small bounty" to pay for getting new revolving credit accounts. He noted that the attrition rate for card issuers had hit 12% nationally as customers either pay down their balances or cancel cards.

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