Frank Sinatra, whose recently televised 80th birthday party was rife with superstar entertainers, has made an offer some will find hard to refuse.
Ol' Blue Eyes just joined the growing ranks of musical icons gracing a MasterCard.
Mr. Sinatra was preceded by Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. Some may wonder, who's next - the Beatles?
During Sinatra's birthday special Dec. 14, Bruce Springsteen, Bono of the Irish rock group U2, Bob Dylan, Don Rickles, and many others serenaded or chided Mr. Sinatra, paying tribute to the premier American entertainer. During the commercial breaks, MBNA Corp., the card's issuer, ran advertisements touting the new card.
The following day, MBNA, along with MasterCard International and Capitol Records, purchased a full page ad in USA Today, wishing Mr. Sinatra a happy birthday and inviting his fans to apply for the MasterCard.
MBNA, the second-largest issuer in the nation, with $24.7 billion in receivables and more than 12 million accounts, built its empire through affinity marketing.
"We market to people with a strong common interest," said company spokesman Peter Osborne. In this instance, MBNA will target Mr. Sinatra's "large and loyal fan base," he said.
Mr. Sinatra's fan clubs - like Elvis Presley's - are located around the globe, and it's difficult to count them. "We think the card will be very successful," Mr. Osborne said.
The no-fee gold or standard MasterCard carries a prime plus 8.9% interest rate. Balance transfers get a 5.9% rate for the first six months and 8.9% over prime thereafter.
Customers who charge $1,000 to the card during a calendar quarter in their first year, will receive an exclusive Frank Sinatra compact disc, not available in record stores. For activating the card, consumers get a five- minute, prepaid phone card with Mr. Sinatra's image on it, a possible collector's item.
Monthly inserts accompanying the billing statement will offer discounts on selected Sinatra merchandise.
The card will be marketed through direct mail offers, telemarketing, print and television ads, and at special Sinatra events, such as concerts or benefits.
A Sinatra spokeswoman said the master of popular song opted to participate because MBNA made an "attractive" offer.
Mr. Sinatra will receive royalties from the card, paid to his entertainment company, MBNA said.
Fran Dale, president of Entandem, a Reston Va.-based consulting firm, said the card would appeal to a small group of consumers. The program "is in keeping with what MBNA is good at," she said. "They've found a way to do programs like this and make money at them."
But she warned that, like the Elvis card, it could be a collectible which never gets used.
Credit card collector Lin Overholt, who publishes the First International Credit Card Catalogueue, said the Sinatra MasterCard would certainly be a collector's item. But he said the Elvis card, issued by Leaders Federal Bank for Savings in Memphis, would be worth more because there would be fewer issued.
"MBNA will give you an extra one free for your wife or kids," he said. "With Elvis you have to pay for each card."
Still, he said the Sinatra card will be "highly collectible. Why would anyone not want it?"
The cards are already worth $35 in mint condition, he said, and the value would increase if the design changes periodically, making previous issues unique.