Another nonbank has expanded its credit issuing, and hardly anyone noticed.

For the past 18 months, Prudential Bank and Trust Co. - owned by the Prudential Insurance Company of America - has carried out a national direct-mail campaign to build its cardholder base.

The Atlanta-based consumer bank had been in the credit card business before that, but the Visa and MasterCard products it offered were limited to Prudential life insurance customers. Prudential Bank and Trust had about $250 million of card loans on its books as of March 1993, according to an American Banker compilation.

The initial cross-selling strategy has been turned on its head. "We want to use the card to bring customers into the Prudential family, in order to sell other products," said Jeffrey R. Johnson, president of Prudential Bank.

Leaning on the Rock

The Prudential's well known corporate symbol is drawn on to promote the value of the credit cards. Solicitations tout the card's "rock-solid" value.

Prudential Bank offers a variety of standard and gold products - from a no-annual-fee-for-life card at prime plus six points to an 18.9% fixed-rate card with a $19 annual fee. All products start at an introductory rate of 9.9%, in effect until May 1994.

Free Card Registration

Prudential Bank offers the most creditworthy people a Visa Gold card at prime plus six after the promotional period. The annual fee is waived permanently.

Other benefits of the gold card include free credit card registration - an 800-number service that cancels all of a customer's credit cards when they are reported lost or stolen.

Up to $250,000 in travel accident insurance is available at no charge if the customer uses the Prudential Visa card to purchase an airplane, train, or ship ticket.

600,000 Credit Card Accounts

The card comes with an annual summary of account activity.

The bank has 600,000 card accounts, 400,000 of which came in during the last 18 months of broader marketing efforts.

"We do not have the ambitions of AT&T or General Motors, but we will continue to grow," said Mr. Johnson.

S&T Bank of Indiana, Pa., is willing to pay for new balances and is making a long-term interest-rate promise.

The bank is trying to lure balance transfers with a 0.5% rebate and a waiver of the first year's $15 fee.

The lead bank of $1.2 billion-asset S&T Bancorp, seeking to match or undercut competitors in southwestern Pennsylvania, charges all customers a 9.96% fixed interest rate. It stressed that this is not an introductory or leaser offer, promising it will stay in effect until yearend 1995.

"This is a time when consumers are trying to control their financial lives," said president and chief operating officer James C. Miller. "They're looking to eliminate high finance charges and that is exactly what the S&T Visa card does over the short and long term."

The bank lowered the annual percentage rate from 15.72% because "consumers are constantly inundated with offers from banks and credit card companies for variable rate, preapproved credit cards," Mr. Miller said. "These offers, which include everything from maintaining minimum balances to higher rates for new purchases, are often enticing, short-term introductory offers that only last a few weeks or months. S&T Visa does not offers consumer perceived deals and surprises."

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