Card Works Partners LP, a new marketing joint venture, is championing the smallest players in the credit card business.

Formed by Cardholder Management Services, Plainview, N.Y., and North American Integrated Marketing, West Paterson, N.J., the limited partnership will seek clients with credit card portfolios of up to 250,000 accounts.

The idea behind the venture is to help the smaller card issuers compete more effectively with some of the largest financial institutions by providing up-front capital and marketing and technological expertise.

"We are willing to put our capital at risk in order to help our clients grow their businesses," said Donald M. Berman, president of CMS. Many smaller institutions are prevented from growing, he added, because their budgets are too confining.

The partners plan to invest millions of dollars to boost their customers' portfolios, said David Watson, senior vice president of CMS.

The venture will be compensated on a per-account fee or through revenue sharing.

Card Works is unique in the market because it covers the costs involved in acquiring new customers, the executives said.

Banco Popular de Puerto Rico is Card Works' first client.

Initially, the partnership will analyze the bank's customer base, focusing on how to stem attrition and increase profitability.

The $13 million-asset bank controls 45% of the market in Puerto Rico, with about $300 million of receivables. It also has a smaller portfolio in the United States, where it issues credit cards in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Banco Popular could not be reached for comment, but Mr. Watson said the bank wants to increase its market share in the United States, where it has about 100,000 card accounts.

CMS currently services Banco Popular's U.S. portfolio, and the bank handles all its own card functions in Puerto Rico. But the partnership will work with both portfolios.

North American currently sells services to such major issuers as Fleet Bank and Bank of New York. And CMS services some of the top 25 credit card issuers' secured-card portfolios.

While there is some overlap between Card Works Partners and what each company does separately, Mr. Berman said the venture allows the partners for the first time to manage card accounts individually by, for example, adjusting interest rates, waiving annual fees, and increasing credit limits.

CMS offers a full menu of outsourcing functions like collections, risk management, and customer service; North American's expertise is in direct mail and data base marketing.

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