consumers 50 cents a month to forgo paper statements and receive and pay card bills on-line.
The product is the Dilbert NextCard Visa, a cobranded card featuring Scott Adams' nerdy comic strip character. On top of the paperless billing -- which NextCard describes as a "reverse fee" option -- the Dilbert card promises no annual, late, or over-limit fees.
"What we're saying is, 'We're going to be saving a buck by not mailing the statement; we'll split the difference with you,' " said Richard Goebel, director of business development at NextCard in San Francisco.
Mr. Goebel said the Federal Reserve's recent modification of Regulation Z, which sets disclosure requirements for credit terms and other consumer protections, makes paperless credit card statements feasible.
He said Bank One Corp.'s First USA subsidiary has been offering Internet-only statements on some marketing Web sites for its products, and NextCard is the first company to offer consumers a discount for doing so.
Mr. Goebel said the application for the Dilbert Visa card -- which can be applied for only on-line -- includes two screens of boxes that consumers must check indicating their desire to get statements by computer alone.
NextCard cited statistics saying the typical American is "charged more than $100 in fees and received more than 70 direct-mail offers from the banking industry" last year. To counter this, NextCard says it is letting people "choose Internet technology over paper bureaucracy."
Moreover, Mr. Goebel said his company is "taking a stand" against the credit card industry's spiraling fee structure. Whereas other NextCard products include "some penalty pricing," he said, the "most you'd pay is $15" as a late fee.
"We're focused on the card business in the old-fashioned way," he said. "It's a revolving loan, and if you carry a balance, we charge you interest."
NextCard, which introduced its first Visa card in 1997, has until now been offering its products through a Silicon Valley community bank, Heritage Bank of Commerce. Last Friday, NextCard announced it had completed the acquisition of Textron National Bank from Textron Inc. of Providence, R.I. As part of the transaction, the bank was renamed NextBank.
After a month's transition, Mr. Goebel said, the Dilbert card and other NextCard products will be issued by NextBank.
Owning a bank "allows us to originate and hold credit card assets for our own account and further strengthens our position as the leading issuer of credit cards on-line," said Jeremy Lent, founder and chief executive officer of NextCard.
Holders of the Dilbert card, like other NextCard customers, can use a digital wallet that the company calls the NextCard eWallet. They can review on-line card statements daily, download statements into personal financial management software, and choose art for the plastic from an on-line gallery.
Dilbert is distributed by United Media, which has provided several images of its characters.