Two years after Visa International introduced a premium card meant for the wealthiest customers, a bank has finally stepped forward to issue it.

On Oct. 16, National City Corp. of Cleveland began issuing the Visa Infinite card, a product designed for the richest 1% to 5% of consumers in each country of issuance. Though the product has been marketed to member banks worldwide since 1998, none had issued it until now.

Sarah Thompson, vice president of consumer products at Visa U.S.A., expressed hope that now that National City has signed on, other banks will follow.

"The initial product offering gives us an excellent opportunity to pilot the card with a select group of cardholders prior to a national rollout," she said. "Our partnership with National City allows us to gather valuable feedback on the card's services so we can make further enhancements to benefit customers."

Visa intended the Infinite card for people who are busy, time-conscious, and technologically savvy. Though the product has not caught on, Visa will continue to promote it. "The affluent market is expected to grow 20% in the next five years," Ms. Thompson said.

National City said it selected 500 of the most affluent customers in its 35,000-customer private client group, and invited them to apply for Visa Infinite, which has no preset credit limit.

"These individuals are our very best clients," said Christina Wroble, assistant vice president and credit product manager at National City. "They are primarily our investment, management, and trust clients who never needed a regular credit card before. By issuing these cards, we hope to strengthen relationships with them."

Ms. Wroble added, "If relationship managers identify more clients qualified to receive the card within the next six months or so, additional customers will be invited to become a cardholder."

Two years ago San Francisco-based Visa U.S.A. Inc. introduced its first premium product, the Signature card, for the affluent market. Later, Visa International approved the Infinite card, which is for the cream of the Signature crop.

Visa said the Signature card is meant to attract new customers, while the Infinite card is intended to reward existing customers. Ideally, banks issuing the Signature card would let qualified cardholders upgrade to the Infinite card.

"The success of the Infinite card won't be measured by quantity, but by its quality," Ms. Thompson said.

MasterCard International offers a high-end card called MasterCard World, and American Express Co., which set the pace for the upscale card market, offers several products aimed at different tiers of people with high net worth. Like MasterCard World and the American Express Centurion card, Visa Infinite offers no preset spending limits, a customized rewards program, and personalized concierge service.

The Visa Infinite being offered by National City's private client group has an annual fee of $150, versus an average of $50 set by issuers of MasterCard World and $1,000 for an American Express Centurion card.

National City will let Visa Infinite customers view account information online, and will let them set up recurring bill payments linked to their deposit account.

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