Sears, Roebuck & Co. has upgraded its successful in-store charge card and given it a new name.

The Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based retailer said it will gradually replace Sears Charge Cards with the new Sears Card, beginning in a few months.

Its benefits, which accrue immediately to holders of the current Sears Charge Card, include advance notice of sales opportunities, and offers for 0% finance. Additionally, Sears Card customers will be able to obtain credit card refunds without a receipt, and have a choice in payment due dates.

Symbolizing the change, Sears has replaced its traditional black and gray card with one sporting blue, white, and gold.

"We really believe we need to keep its features fresh and contemporary to stay competitive," said John Delany, Sears' divisional vice president of credit marketing.

Although general purpose cards have made significant inroads into the in-store card market, the Sears Card has remained a heavy hitter. Theretailer said that the percentage of sales made through its store card have steadily increased in recent years.

"Their history has been one of success," said David Robertson, president of The Nilson Report, a credit card industry newsletter based in Oxnard, Calif.

"There's enough of a draw in their product mix that will continue to support the card," he continued. "Sears has a very strong hold on the blue- collar market. For up-and-coming blue-collar workers, it is still often their first card, and you're going to keep your first card for a long time, maybe 20, 25 years."

As a means of promoting the added benefits, customers making purchases with their Sears cards, or submitting a Sears card application, will be entered in the store's "Thanks A Million" sweepstakes. A total of $1 million in Sears card prizes will be awarded, with a grand prize of $100,000 on the winner's Sears Card.

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