Many Tennessee residents are saving at the pump thanks to a fuel card available through National Bank of Commerce.

At midmonth the Memphis bank introduced its checking account customers to an affiliate's subsidiary's FleetOne Rewards Card, which knocks off 2, 4, or 6 cents a gallon, depending on the fuel grade, at 1,300 gas stations all across the eastern United States, including 500 in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The card is free for current or new customers who come into any of National Commerce's 70-odd Tennessee branches.

The discounts - the same that small commercial fleets receive - will save the average family $8 to $12 a month, said William Reed Jr., chief operating officer of $15 billion-asset National Commerce Bancorp.

"This is a mass-market product" that "touches every single customer," he said.

Mr. Reed said he expects the fuel card to attract many new customers and give current customers one reason fewer to switch banks.

The bank has issued about 150 cards per day, according to Mr. Reed - and the formal promotional campaign will not begin for a week. It was put off, he said, because the bank wanted to make sure that issuing the card went smoothly, since fuel cards are new territory for the banking industry.

"I wanted to get the operational issues down," he said. "And now that they are, we're getting ready to raise roof after Labor Day on this offer."

FleetOne, which provides discount fuel cards to courier services and other small truck and car fleets, is a unit of TransPlatinum, a transportation management company that National Commerce Bancorp. bought in 1996.

The consumer offer is a way for the bank and TransPlatinum to join forces after four years of no interaction. Ken Brockman, vice president of TransPlatinum, said the program will definitely increase fuel card activity and should attract more gas stations.

"This program will probably put hundreds of thousands cards on the street," he said.

Mr. Brockman said he had talked with some gas station owners who wanted to sign up with FleetOne just because of the consumer offer.

The card can be used at any station that displays the FleetOne logo. The participating stations in Tennessee include many Citgo, Griffin Express, and Mapco Express locations, Mr. Brockman said.

Over the next few months the card will also become available to customers at National Commerce's 330 other branches throughout Virginia and the Carolinas. That includes all of the customers acquired in July when the company bought CCB Financial Corp. of Durham, N.C.

Mr. Reed said that once National Commerce's fuel card program takes off, he and other officials will help banks elsewhere implement similar programs.

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