California-based 76 Products Co., a division of Unocal Corp., has unveiled Spanish-themed versions of its cobranded and proprietary credit cards.
Both offer an application form written in Spanish, plus targeted credit underwriting criteria and other support materials, according to Daniel Steel, a Unocal spokesman.
"A large percentage of our market is foreign-born," he explained. "Many speak Spanish as a primary or secondary language."
The credit underwriting criteria "help examine the applicants in the context of their own experience, as opposed to the experience of mainstream America," Mr. Steel said.
Spanish-speaking immigrants who were successful elsewhere might be turned down for credit here if evaluated by the standards of "mainstream Americans," Mr. Steel said.
76 Products Co. is Unocal's marketing, refining, product supply, and transportation unit, with about 1,200 service stations in the western United States.
The Unocal MasterCard, issued through Associates National Bank, Wilmington, Del., has no annual fee. The introductory rate, 7.6%, rises to prime plus 11.9% in six months. The card offers a 1% rebate toward gas purchases at Unocal 76 locations.
The proprietary card offers similar terms and incentives, according to Mr. Steel.
Associates National Bank is part of Associates Corporation of North America, a subsidiary of the financial services group of Ford Motor Co. Associates Corp.'s other cobranding partners include Phillips Petroleum, Amoco, GTE, Citgo, and Total Petroleum.
Unocal Corp. said it has 4.5 million active accounts for cobranded and proprietary cards. The Nilson Report, an Oxnard, Calif., newsletter, ranked it eighth out of 26 companies in the gas card market.
Credit cards issued by oil companies handle more than $25 billion annually, according to The Nilson Report. Chevron Co., Texaco Corp., and Mobil Oil Co. are the top three.
Unocal's new programs for the Spanish-speaking market are "an excellent idea," said Spencer Nilson, founder of The Nilson Report.
"All oil companies try to segmentize their products," he noted. "To expand your base, you have to customize your product to meet certain markets.
"This kind of segmentation wouldn't work in Minnesota, but it should do very well in California."
Separately, Unocal said it has unveiled a credit card targeting college students. The Student 76 MasterCard, which also has no annual fee and a 7.6% introductory rate, offers a 1% rebate on gas at its stations.