Signet Banking Corp., which has taken hundreds of millions of dollars in credit card loans from its competitors with low-rate transfer offers, is dangling the ultimate lure - zero interest charges.

Some Georgia residents recently received a mail offering for a card with no interest on balances transferred from other cards. The rate is good through the end of the year, then bumps up to 10.6 points above the three-month London interbank offered rate, or 13.9% currently. The card carries an $18 annual fee.

Richard D. Fairbank, who runs Signet's credit card operation, played down the offer's significance. "We're not undergoing a big change in pricing strategy," he said.

Signet's rapid card growth and intensive marketing have evoked wide-eyed wonder from competitors who question its ability to control losses and record profits.

But Richmond, Va.-based Signet says it carefully segments its market. For example, it is now offering some customers a nofee card with an 8.9% rate on balances transferred, as well as a card with a similar rate but an $18 fee to those less creditworthy.

"We've worked hard to get our cost structures down to be able to support these kind of prices," said Mr. Fairbank.

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