VANCOUVER - Royal Bank of Canada has begun a rewards program for Royal Bank Preferred Visa cardholders in Vancouver and the lower mainland area of British Columbia.

Select cardholders are being offered added benefits and accelerated rewards as part of a pilot project with a Royal Bank of Canada subsidiary, Ernex Marketing Technologies Inc., that specializes in point of sale loyalty programs.

Royal Bank says the program is the first of its kind in North America.

Royal Bank Preferred Visa cardholders in the pilot area can earn bonus Royal Rewards points every time they use their Visa card at participating locations. The purchase information is processed in real time and customers immediately know how many points they collect.

"We are very excited to have the opportunity of bringing proven Ernex technology to Royal Bank's preferred cardholders," said James Christensen, president and chief executive officer of Ernex. "No other credit card issuer in North America today is using technology to communicate with and reward cardholders at multiple merchant locations in real time at the point of sale."

All participating locations will offer double points to Royal Bank Preferred Visa cardholders for an entire year through Aug. 31, 2001. For the first three months of the pilot, Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, 2000, cardholders are eligible to receive accelerated rewards. Cardholders can multiply their points earned with each subsequent visit to the same business.

"It's a new generation of loyalty program that allows merchants, small or large, to reward their best customers on the spot," said Marlene Thompson, vice president of value-added programs at Royal Bank.

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