care credit card created by PulseCard Inc., Overton, Kan. The agreement came about six weeks after PulseCard announced a credit card processing alliance with the American Medical Association. PulseCard Inc.'s private-label card carries a $12 annual fee and rate of prime plus 9.9%. PulseCard said its cards are accepted at 10,000 health care providers in 50 states. The company had functioned as the lender - a responsibility that will now be transferred to Star Bank. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, nor was the number of PulseCards issued. "Star Bank's commitment to us is large enough to support our commitments," said Dr. Robin Potter, president of PulseCard. He cited PulseCard's alliance with AMA Financing and Practice Services Inc., which is aimed at encouraging credit card acceptance in the medical field. "They're looking for an institution that's trying to be as aggressive as possible," said David Robertson, president of The Nilson Report, an Oxnard, Calif.-based newsletter, in explaining why PulseCard might have teamed with Star Bank. Founded in 1989 by Dr. Potter, PulseCard enables patients to pay for copayments, deductibles, and medical procedures not covered by traditional insurance. The system allows health care providers to process PulseCard alongside MasterCard, Visa, and American Express. Collin McKenny, PulseCard's senior vice president and manager of its card services group, said the deal had been in the making since a summer meeting with a PulseCard executive who mentioned that the company had discussed the idea with other issuers. "PulseCard gives Visa or MasterCard holders another alternative without tying up their bank card," said Ms. McKenny. "On larger transactions, customers can go interest-free for 90 days, which is an incentive not usually offered by bank cards." MasterCard International recently estimated that the annual U.S. market for such expenses at about $200 million - 10% to 12% of which is handled through credit cards. Individual doctors, who run 74% of all medical and dental practices, lose about 8% of their revenues to bad debt and face onerous billing costs. Both Star Bank and PulseCard use Total Systems Services Inc. for processing. Star Banc Corp., the parent company of Star Bank, is a $9.7 billion- asset bank holding company with 250 retail locations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Star Bank has issued about 400,000 Visa and MasterCards. It currently has private-label programs with a jewelry shop chain and a furniture store franchise.
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