MBNA Corp. has signed an agreement with Virtual Communities Inc. to issue cobranded credit cards targeting several ethnic groups.

New York-based Virtual Communities develops Internet portals designed around the interests of ethnic groups in the United States. So far it has five Web sites: virtualireland.com, virtualitaly.com, virtualindia.com, virtualjerusalem.com, and virtualholyland.com.

Under the agreement, MBNA is to be the exclusive credit card issuer for all Virtual Communities sites, and the two companies are to develop affinity programs for each ethnic group.

MBNA of Wilmington, Del., already offers affinity cards to certain ethnic groups, including its Emerald card for the Irish community. These cards are to be advertised on the corresponding Virtual Community sites, and the on-line communities will be marketed to MBNA customers.

"The relationship between VCI and MBNA is a natural fit," said Avi Moskowitz, chief executive officer at Virtual Communities.

VCI's sites have "members who are actively engaged in their communities and who are seeking a place that reflects their own heritage and values," Mr. Moskowitz said. "This alliance with MBNA reaffirms our commitment to providing our current and future members with the highest quality of services available."

Each "virtual community" Web site has daily news, shopping, recipes, pop culture, chat rooms, travel tips, history, religious information, and links to related sites. Members of virtualjerusalem.com, for example, can see a live video of the Western Wall in Jerusalem and fax prayers and messages to Israel to be placed in the Wall's crevices.

Virtual Community said its initial five portals have 250,000 registered users.

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