In a move that has rankled privacy advocates - and may prod banks to withhold customer data from credit bureaus over fear of poaching by competitors - Providian Financial Corp. is pushing the marketing envelope with a balance-transfer offer tailored to individual cardholder balances.

On the surface, the Providian mailing seems similar to other balance transfer offers that have been a marketing staple of card issuers. What sets it apart is that the transfer checks it has been mailing to some of its own customers come pre-written, made out to the customer's other creditors. On the attached stub Providian suggests a payment based on the amount of how much the customer owes.

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