U.S. credit card issuers are the top mailers in the United Kingdom and Canada, according to a survey by BAIGlobal Inc.

Three U.S. issuers accounted for 46% of direct mail credit card solicitations in the United Kingdom last September, the study found.

MBNA Corp. of Wilmington, Del., was the leading mailer, responsible for 19% of all solicitations, said BAIGlobal, a market research firm in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Trailing MBNA were RBS-Advanta (a joint venture of Royal Bank of Scotland and Advanta Corp.) with 16% and Capital One Financial Corp. with 11%.

The survey reflects the high interest among U.S. card issuers in reaching British and Canadian consumers. The invaders were attracted by these countries' low rates of credit card penetration compared with the nearly saturated U.S. market.

In the Canadian survey, MBNA was also the leader, sending out 35% of solicitations. Capital One of Falls Church, Va., accounted for another 30%.

Those companies sent smaller shares of direct mail solicitations in the United States last September-10% for Capital One and 5% for MBNA-but the volumes of mail were much higher. BAIGlobal would not give absolute numbers for the solicitations sent abroad.

The biggest mailers in the United States were the Citibank unit of Citigroup, which had an 18% share of solicitations, and the First USA unit of Bank One Corp., at 14%.

Neither Citibank, which issues cards in the United Kingdom, nor First USA, which is planning to, was ranked in the survey's final data.

"Our continuing research will show whether these top U.S. mailers will show up in both" Canada and the United Kingdom in coming months, said Chris Batenhorst, vice president of competitive tracking services at BAIGlobal.

A record three billion solicitations were sent in the United States in 1997, according to BAIGlobal. In the third quarter of 1998, the U.S. total was 811 million, which yielded a response rate-applications were filled out and returned-of 1.3%.

BAIGlobal, without releasing specific figures for Canada or the United Kingdom, said both countries' totals are far smaller, with solicitations in Britain outnumbering those in Canada.

MBNA's business in the United Kingdom grew 56% last year, to more than $4 billion of receivables, a company spokesman said.

Share of direct mail does not always translate into share of market. Barclays Bank of London is Britain's largest issuer-its BarclayCard has roughly 25% of the market-but ranks fourth in mail volume, according to the survey.

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