MasterCard International has launched an employee incentive award card to round out its line of products for the corporate market.

Initially, the Exclusively Yours MasterCard will be issued by Boatmen's Bancshares Inc., St. Louis, and Maritz, a company that offers employee incentive packages to Fortune 500 companies. MasterCard intends to roll out the product to other members, as well.

"MasterCard already offers a business card for employees and a purchasing card for purchasing managers," said Arthur D. Kranzley, senior vice president and general manager for U.S. debit products. "This card fits in perfectly with our family of commercial products."

The card is designed to replace paper checks or certificates, which are traditionally used for employee incentives. A MasterCard spokeswoman said the program has the potential to convert significant award-based payment volume to bank card activity, thus supplementing existing debit, credit, and commercial card volume.

A recent survey by Hewitt Associates found that 89.7% of all U.S. companies offer formal employee incentive programs.

Maritz said it offers employee incentive programs to all of the Fortune 100 companies and that 21 of its clients have signed up for the card-based program.

Here's how the card works: Incentive-program participants accrue points based on achieving performance goals; each point equals a dollar, and total points are held in participants' cardholder accounts at Boatmen's Bank.

Employees can use their cards with all the accrued value to buy goods and services from MasterCard merchants that participate in the Exclusively Yours program.

More than 10,000 merchants have agreed to accept the cards, and MasterCard predicts it will have 30,000 by yearend.

MasterCard will process the transactions just as it does other debit card transactions, which it said will add volume to its business and thereby drive costs down.

"We think it represents a whole new opportunity for the industry," said Mr. Kranzley. "The industry is looking for new ways to use bank card products to serve customers. This card represents for our members a way of adding . . . volume, while providing an automated way for companies to offer incentives."

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