First USA Inc. and a mail order company have introduced an affinity card that aims to benefit conservation efforts.

Holders of the Orvis Conservation Visa card can direct 5% of their Orvis purchases and 1% of all other buys to conservation projects selected jointly by the Manchester, Vt.-based company and the National Fish and Wildlife Association. Transferred credit card balances will also be compensated at the 1% rate.

However, cardholders may choose to receive gift certificates for Orvis merchandise instead of donating the rebates.

Orvis calls itself the nation's oldest mail order company specializing in fly fishing tackle, apparel, and other outdoor accessories.

"Our customers are particularly interested in helping to preserve critical habitats and contributing to conservation programs supporting wildlife," Orvis president Perk Perkins said in a release.

The company cited its involvement in efforts ranging from the preservation of the Big Blackfoot River in Montana to the Seatuck National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island.

The Orvis Conservation Visa card, which comes in both standard and gold versions, offers an introductory annual percentage rate of 5.9% until Oct. 1, when the rate becomes prime plus 7.9%.

The standard card provides a credit line up to $5,000, and to $10,000 with a balance transfer. The gold card has a credit line of $15,000.

The card, which carries no annual fee, offers a 25-day interest-free grace period on purchases, Orvis said.

Cause-related marketing, in which a company links itself to an issue or agenda to improve sales and corporate image, is growing in popularity among credit card companies. In the past decade, issuers, led by MasterCard and Visa, have signed on with a wide range of public-interest causes.

Last month, Fleet Financial Group unveiled a Visa credit card with a tie-in to the Special Olympics.

First USA Bank, which will issue the card, is a subsidiary of First USA Inc., a financial services company specializing in the credit card business. As of March 31, it had issued more than 9.5 million credit cards with $12 billion in outstandings.

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