Visa U.S.A.'s quarterly travel and entertainment card usage program kicks into gear in October with 20 million statement stuffers.

The program, Exclusive Escapes, targets Visa gold and Visa business cardholders and offers them deals on upscale travel and lodging. Visa classic cardholders, who were added to the program in April, are offered a similar array of travel and lodging discounts from hotels, resorts, and car rental agencies.

Among the new vendors for the fall are Choice Hotels, Dollar Rent-A-Car, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Renaissance Cruise Line, and American Airlines.

Visa introduced Exclusive Escapes three years ago to build business for members, said Thomas C. Edwards, vice president of travel and entertainment marketing.

Increases Overall Transactions

Now Visa has a choice of merchants who are clamoring to participate, he said.

A controlled in-market test shows the program increases overall Visa card transactions and dollar volume by 20%, said Mr. Edwards.

Statistics show Exclusive Escapes increases travel and entertainment transactions, prompts cardholders to revolve, and helps retain cardholders, he added.

"We've educated the consumer and merchants about the value of Visa," Mr. Edwards said.

Exclusive Escapes is part of a marketing segmentation program developed in 1989 to increase Visa's market share of the $300 billion worldwide travel industry.

Share Increased

Visa's charge volume increased from $23 billion in 1989 to $40 billion in 1992.

As a result, Visa moved from 31% share in 1990 to 37% in 1993, Mr. Edwards said. By Visa's calculation, American Express's market share dipped to 26% from 37%.

American Express does not release market share numbers. It reported that charge volume increased 5 1/2% in 1992 to $117.6 billion.

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