Now that frequent-flier programs are becoming more of a commodity, smaller banks have seen fit to join the likes of Citibank, NationsBank, and First Chicago in issuing cards that reward usage with points.
Fulton Bank, a $1.6 billion-asset bank in Lancaster, Pa., has introduced a cobranded Visa gold Travel Card with Worldwide Travel Inc., the largest independently owned travel agency in central Pennsylvania.
Stan Dale, editor of Mileage & Points, a monthly newsletter, said that "for all intents and purposes, every frequent-flier program is a commodity - there's little difference from one to another."
This presents an opportunity for banks of all sizes to enter the market, Mr. Dale added.
The Travel Card is the first cobranded product from the bank, which has $31 million in outstandings from about 100,000 Visa and MasterCards.
"We're expanding our plastic line to complement the way people are doing banking," said bank spokesman John M. DiRico. "This niche product allows us to align with another local business leader in the region." The bank's business region matches that of the travel agency.
Mr. DiRico added that although the card features are comparable to those from national issuers, the bank can provide local service, "which is still important to people in our area."
The card carries a $50 annual fee, with a prime plus 7% interest rate. Cardholders receive one point for every dollar spent on the card. Points are also awarded for each dollar of interest paid on the cardholder's account. An unlimited number of points can be earned and would be valid for four-years.
Travel points can be redeemed in $100 increments through Worldwide Travel for all major airlines, cruise ships, and rail carriers, the bank said.
Cardholders are less restricted on seat availability and blackout periods than they would be with other travel rewards programs, Mr. DiRico said.
Fulton Bank, the lead bank of the $3.5 billion Fulton Financial Corp., has been marketing the Travel Card to its customers via direct mail and in its branches.
Worldwide Travel has been promoting the card with brochures at its offices.