Star Banc Corp. and MCI Communications Corp. have hooked up to offer an affinity credit card for Xavier University in Cincinnati.

On top of the normal credit function, the no-fee card gives students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Xavier an option to charge long-distance telephone calls through MCI.

Although calling card features have become popular add-ons to campus identification cards and cobranded credit cards, industry observers say this is the first time an affinity product has been added to the mix.

"The bank and the school know that students live with a telephone in their ear," said Stanley Anderson, president of Anderson & Associates of Arvada, Colo. "Being able to use a card with telephone access is a great incentive to build loyalty."

Cincinnati-based Star Bank debuted on the Xavier campus last fall with a multipurpose identification card for faculty, students, and staff. The magnetic-stripe product operated as a debit card and came with the MCI calling option.

Xavier officials said their next step was to take a fresh look at their 10-year-old affinity card. Xavier then switched from former issuer Fifth Third Bancorp-the largest bank in Cincinnati-to its new financial and technology partner, Star, which is No. 2 in the market.

The Xavier University card has no annual fee and a fixed interest rate of 14.4%.

A portion of each cardholder purchase will benefit the university in several ways, from scholarships and financial aid to building maintenance.

The previous card was offered with an interest rate of 15% and an $18 annual fee that was waived for the first year.

Cardholders with the old product can apply for the new Star card, said Steve Dale, a bank spokesman.

"Statistics show that the average college student has two credit cards by junior year," said Thomas Barlow, director of auxiliary services at Xavier. "We need to establish loyalty with students while they are in school, as opposed to shotgun marketing after they graduate."

The Star Bank program includes free personal computer banking for Xavier students, faculty, and staff.

Mr. Anderson said that by adding a phone card option, Star Bank has set a new standard that other affinity groups and card-issuing banks will look at closely.

"I think you will see more of this," he said. "Bringing an additional feature into the card means cardholders can eliminate another card in their wallets."

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