United States National Bank has added a prepaid calling card feature to its debit card.
Though many banks have issued prepaid calling cards as customer giveaways or for added income, the unit of Portland, Ore.-based U.S. Bancorp said its new combination card is a first.
"We're always looking for products and features to add to our cards that will enhance the ability of consumers to use that card," said Mary Ruble, a spokeswoman for the bank. She said consumers traveling for both pleasure and business use telephone cards. "We wanted them to take one card and never need anything else."
All 850,000 U.S. Bank debit cardholders can add PhonePass, the calling card feature, to their accounts. Of those, some 200,000 tied to "full- service accounts" are eligible for a rebate of 0.5% on long distance calls made with PhonePass as well as on general purchases.
John McCabe, president and chief operating officer of Global Telecommunication Solutions Inc., said the New York-based marketer of prepaid phone cards is negotiating with several banks to issue a similar product. "There will be a niche market for this that will have a ton of popularity," he said.
U.S. Bank will not replace existing debit cards. To activate the calling feature, customers merely dial a toll-free customer service number used for all their banking business. They can prepay calling time in 30-minute increments for $9.90. The charges are deducted from their deposit accounts.
Long-distance phone service is provided by LDDS Worldcom, Jackson, Miss. U.S. Bank said it will make a profit on the calling time, but it did not say how much.
To make calls, customers dial the "800" number and use their debit card personal identification number. The amount of the call will be subtracted from the total prepaid amount. The access fee common with calling cards - usually 75 cents - will be waived.
Customers can purchase additional calling time as they wish - even during a call. An operator will warn the caller when time is running out and customers can opt to replenish the card at that moment and continue the call.