Citizens Bank of Providence, R.I., has issued a Visa affinity card to benefit a local environmental group.
Save the Bay, a 25-year-old organization dedicated to the preservation of Narragansett Bay, will receive $3 for every approved cardholder and 0.5% on their purchases.
The Save the Bay Visa comes with no annual fee and offers an introductory rate of 9.9%. After six months, the rate jumps to prime plus 7.9%.
Cardholders will be eligible for credit lines of as much as $25,000, the bank said, and will have the option to transfer existing balances from other accounts.
John King, a senior vice president and director of bank card services at Citizens, predicted the new card would attract support from civic-minded and environmentally conscious people.
"If you look at credit cards today, they really come in three flavors," said Mr. King. "The first is a reward card that benefits the consumer directly, like through airline mileage. The second offers benefits through a low rate or no annual fee, while the third assists some charitable organization."
Mr. King said that the "corporate culture" of Citizens "lends itself to a charitable affinity card."
On Sept. 16, seven Citizens employees, including chairman and chief executive Lawrence K. Fish, joined in Save the Bay's annual 1.7-mile fund-raising swim across Narragansett Bay's eastern passage, which runs from Newport to Jamestown. The bank said it garnered more than $20,000 in sponsorship contributions.
Save the Bay is credited with sparking improvements in the Narragansett's water quality and attracting a number of celebrity advocates, including Ted Turner and Jane Fonda.
Mr. King described Narragansett Bay as "Rhode Island's most important natural resource and the source of much of the state's economic livelihood."
Affinity cards that benefit the community they serve are a growing trend in banking. William Adcock, chairman of Synergistics Research Corp. in Atlanta, described the Save the Bay Visa as "very reasonable" and "appealing to a definable market that can be reached with a certain kind of message."
Mr. Adcock added that people who are environmentally aware are fervently loyal to those causes. "It becomes a major thing in their lives," he said. "I would think they'd respond well" to the card.
Other issuers are trying to tap into this segment. In July, First USA Inc. unveiled the Orvis Conservation Visa, through which cardholders can direct a portion of their purchases to conservation projects selected jointly by the Manchester, Vt.-based mail order company and the National Fish and Wildlife Association.
In June, Commerce Bancorp issued a Visa card to residents of Washington Township in New Jersey, with the promise that a percentage of their purchases would go back into the town's general fund in support of programs such as parks and recreation services.
Citizens Bank claims $175 million in outstandings and about 200,000 credit cards. It serves as a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group Inc., a $10.3 billion Providence-based financial services company operating more than 130 branches in Connecticut and Massachusetts as well as Rhode Island.
Citizens Bank currently issues one other regional affinity card, through the Rhode Island Bar Association.