BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Marine Midlands Banks Inc. said it will offer credit cards to members of the American Bowling Congress.

The group has 2.7 million amateur bowlers as members.

As in many other such affinity-card arrangements, the Marine Midland MasterCard will offer fringe benefits, in this case a reduction in certain service fees and a free subscription to Bowling magazine.

Each time one of the cards is used, the bowling association will get a small contribution.

Big in Affinity Programs

Marine, which has 1.2 million card accounts and ranks among the 25 largest banks in credit card receivables, has been an active marketer to affinity groups, particularly fans of New York sports teams.

The bowling group program will be its largest affinity program, according to Robert M. Bohannon, senior executive vice president of Buffalo-based Marine, which is owned by HSBC Holdings PLC of London.

Marketing efforts will include Marine's sponsorship of the ABC National Team Challenge, a competition to be held in 17 cities, culminating in the championship in Reno next June.

No Fee for One Year

Marine will offer a one-year waiver on the annual fee for a Mastercard Gold card, which carries a 15.2% annual percentage rate. A standard MasterCard is also available at 17.2%.

In addition, members are allowed to take a cash advance with a 12.9% annual interest rate for the first year to consolidate balances from other cards.

The American Bowling Congress said it has benefited from a recent surge in the sport's popularity, particularly in the Midwest. Some 5.5 million people participate in bowling leagues.

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