U S West's marketing research group is mailing a new electronic shopping card offering promotions, discounts, and savings to more than 285,000 Denver residents.

The company is sending its Your Value Card to people living near 1,200 participating retail businesses in the Denver metropolitan area. The card comes with a guide to these businesses and their offerings.

U S West said the card, which cannot be used to charge purchases, is unique in that it goes beyond identifying the customer for a discount.

A magnetic strip carries information about the customer. At the point of sale, a small terminal will read this information off the card and transmit it to U S West. The card company will later send demographic information to the retailer; customer names and addresses will not be released, U S West said.

Discounts will vary depending on the store involved. "Some merchants will offer a blanket discount, while others will vary rates throughout the usage cycle, meaning you would get progressively more off as your visits increase," said a U S West spokeswoman.

U S West would not say how, if at all, adding the electronic shopping card fits in with its overall credit card strategy. Its Phoenix-based card group issues a cobranded card through U.S. Bancorp in Portland, Ore.

"Your Value Card will be a boon to Denver consumers because it offers automatic benefits, is easy and convenient, and costs absolutely nothing to acquire or use," said David Downes, vice president and general manager of U.S. West's marketing resources group.

Your Value Card was recently tested in Omaha, generating more than 500,000 consumer transactions and $8 million in sales for participating retailers. U S West claims that approximately 50% of those that received the card used it.

U S West Marketing Research Group plans to expand Your Value Card to other cities within the next few years. The company plans to issue the card in Phoenix in September and is currently signing up merchants.

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