Southern Living, the nation's largest regional magazine, will offer readers a cobranded Visa card, hoping to entice them with discounts on subscriptions, travel packages, books, and house plans.

On Thursday the 28-year-old magazine announced the launch of the Southern Living Visa card, which will be issued by NationsBank Corp., the $158 billion asset superregional based in Charlotte, N.C.

Southern Living will announce the program to readers in its August issue.

'A Tough Sell'

The publishing industry has stabbed at the cobrandin8 craze with a handful of programs from newspapers and magazines, but few of them garnered much consumer interest, noted Robert B. McKinley, president of RAM Research Corp., Frederick, Md. "It might sound good on paper giving cardholders those discounts," but he added, it's a tough sell.

Southern Living, based in Birmingham, Ala., and distributed in 16 states, takes a different tack from previous programs by giving cardholders discounts from the magazine and from advertisers.

"While several other magazines have lent their names to credit cards, none has created the wide range of product tie-ins you'll find with Southern Living Visa card," said Hallet Johnson, vice president/director of circulation for the magazine's parent company, Southern Progress.

"Southern Living is an extremely strong name down here," Mr. Johnson said. "We like to say, 'It's more than just a magazine. It's a way of life.'"

NationsBank Card Services, with $5 billion outstandings, will issue the card - the third in its cobranded lineup, joining the Start card and the USAir frequent flyer card.

One reason NationsBank pursued the program is Southern Living's strong presence in the Southeast and Texas - areas that overlap the bank's coverage - said William L. Glascock, senior vice president of partner marketing and commercial card products.

No Fee if Used Once Annually

Subscribers who qualify for the card will pay no annual fee if they use it at least once a year. The card comes with an introductory 6.5% interest rate for six months, which increases to prime plus 9.9%. As a bonus, cardholders will receive a one-year subscription to Southern Living Travel Guides.

Discounts will apply to automatic renewals of the magazine, and to Southern Living books and house plans. Cardholders are also given discounts to vacation packages booked through Southern Living Travel Service.

Cardholders can get discount subscriptions to sister magazines Cooking Light, Southern Accents, and Progressive Farmer. Oxmoor House Inc., a book company owned by Southern Progress, will offer reduced rates on all its books as well.

Initially, Southern Living will offer the card to its 13 million subscribers. Later, card solicitation will be expanded through subscription offers in newsstand copies of the magazine.

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