Columbia HCA Healthcare Corp. and People's Bank of Bridgeport, Conn., will issue an affinity credit card they said will benefit community programs in Columbia's hospital markets.

Columbia HCA, the nation's largest health care provider with 325 hospitals nationwide, will market the card to its 213,000 employees, 75,000 physicians, and an affiliate, the National Association of Senior Friends, a senior citizens group with more than 250,000 members.

For every $100 spent on the card, 35 cents will be donated to charity. People's Bank will pay the health care conglomerate, which will distribute the money to programs in the cardholder's community.

"The objective is to get a very high value card into customers hands and provide benefits to the community in which the customers reside," said Jack Curry, vice president of credit card marketing, People's Bank.

The no-fee Visa card comes with a 9.9% introductory rate on purchases and balance transfers until March 1996, when the rate becomes fixed at 13.9%.

But Michael Auriemma, president of Auriemma Consulting Group, Westbury, N.Y., said a low rate wouldn't be enough to lure senior citizens and physicians, who generally pay their credit card bills in full each month.

"There are a great number of middle income employees that fit our target market who will revolve credit during the year," said David E.A. Carson, president and chief executive, People's Bank.

The bank expects to attract at least 100,000 cardholders in the first couple of years, which could result in as much as $1 million in charity donations.

"A better way to make a contribution to society is to write a check." said Mr. Auriemma. He pointed out that if a cardholder spends $3,000 on a credit card each year, that comes to a $10 donation to the community through the affinity card. "By using a Shell card you can save $70 bucks a year, write a check to charity for $20 and put the rest into your gas tank."

Lindy Richardson, spokeswoman for Columbia HCA, said: "People are going to use charge cards anyway, and this card will allow them to get the goods and services they want and give something back to the community."

"I don't think 35 cents to a charitable cause is enough to sell a card," said credit card consultant Anita Boomstein, a partner at the New York law firm Hughes, Hubbard & Reed. "I don't think this particular group has strong affinity ties. I wouldn't be overly optimistic about it."

Both consultants said a stronger draw would be a rebate tied to health insurance deductibles or doctor's visits.

MBNA Corp., which has used the affinity card strategy to build the third largest credit card portfolio in the country, generally charges a much higher rate on its cards, and often charges a fee.

"Sometimes issuers choose to increase the interest rate to generate a pool of income" to replace money lost through donations, said Mr. Curry. "We attempted to strike a balance to provide benefits to the individual consumer and the community by keeping the interest rate low."

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