First of America Bank Corp. is testing the waters in Boston with a cobranded discount restaurant and entertainment card called PrimeCard.
Unlike other discount cards, PrimeCard comes with no annual fee and combines the advantages of a bank credit card with restaurant, hotel, and theater rebates.
The PrimeCard Visa, issued by Kalamazoo, Mich.-based First of America, offers discounts of up to 25% on the food and beverage portions of bills at many Boston restaurants, as well as discounts of up to 50% on hotels, golf courses, theaters, and cinemas nationwide.
Over the past few years, entertainment discount programs have become popular, most notably the Transmedia Card, In Good Taste, and Premiere Dining, which have partnered with different banks for value-added credit card promotions.
Even so, this may be the first cobranded discount entertainment card to hit the market.
Paul Reiff, vice president of affinity and cobranded programs at First of America, with a $1.2 billion card portfolio, said the bank was targeting 40,000 to 50,000 Boston residents, through a marketing and media campaign, which includes radio, direct mail, and print advertising.
Ads have appeared in the Boston Globe, and will appear in several magazines, including Time, Money, Newsweek.
Mr. Reiff indicated that the bank might be using the Boston launch as a test of the program.
With no annual fee for life and a low introductory rate of 9.8%, the card competes directly with other discount cards, which can have annual fees of $50 or more. Interest rates will go up to prime plus 8.9% after six months.
Mr. Reiff compared the program to Transmedia, an established entertainment card that offers restaurant rebates, and has a $50 fee.
"The program really is a superior value," he said.
"We expect it will appeal to many Transmedia cardholders. who will use this, and when it comes to renewal time for Transmedia, they'll see no good reason to renew."
There are no coupons or special cards involved, nor are there time or menu restrictions with PrimeCard.
Greg Miller, president of Affinity Card Inc., the company that developed PrimeCard, said it's similar to Transmedia's card, "except you pay with your [PrimeCard] Visa, so no one knows you're getting a discount."
On a $100 restaurant bill, the customer signs for the entire price. Then, when the customer receives the Visa statement, a $25 rebate appears as a credit.
By comparison, Transmedia offers its own plastic, which is accepted by the restaurant and subsequently billed to the credit card of the customer's choice.
While Transmedia is one of the fastest-growing discount restaurant card companies in the country, adding 30,000 new customers each month, and offering discounts in restaurants from New York City to Los Angeles, Europe, and Asia, it doesn't offer hotel and other entertainment discounts.
While the card may have some appeal to Boston residents and Transmedia cardholders, Thomas P. Facciola, equity analyst for Salomon Brothers, a New York brokerage firm, said that such a regional card program was too limited.
"I think it's part of a bigger trend toward rebate programs," he said.
"I would imagine these highly fragmented ones are not going to work long term."