People are signing up for platinum credit cards at twice the rate of any other type of card, according to the 1998 J.D. Power and Associates customer satisfaction survey.

Even more surprising, said Andrew March, the Agoura Hills, Calif., research firm's director of financial services, is that people are making purchases with the cards. They are not simply transferring balances to lock in a low interest rate.

Platinum cards, to which many issuers have upgraded gold customers, are garnering 11% of total wallet spending, compared with an anemic 3% for basic and gold cards.

Still, rewards cards, such as those that offer points toward air travel or automobile purchases, surpass platinum cards in spending by 19%.

Platinum cardholders-26% of credit card users own one-tend to have higher incomes and credit limits. The average platinum credit line is $9,970, compared with $6,182 for gold cards and $6,688 for rewards cards.

In a reversal of a three-year trend, J.D. Power found that the number of inactive cards declined, which Mr. March views as a testament to platinum's popularity.

"People are actually using the new cards they are getting, which are mostly platinum," the researcher said. "This means that people value the enhancements platinum cards offer."

Chase Manhattan Bank, which ranked first in platinum card customer satisfaction, offers $1 million in travel accident insurance, $3,000 in lost-luggage insurance, extended warranties, travel discounts, and a 5.9% introductory rate on both transferred balances and new purchases.

"The industry has done a good job at attracting the right market for these cards," Mr. March said.

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