Visa U.S.A.is rolling out a multimillion-dollar campaign to educate consumers about credit management.
The program will feature seminars, brochures, and college presentations and will be cosponsored by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit.
The announcement comes at a time of growing concern about bankruptcy and delinquency rates. The program, designed with no overt Visa marketing interest, is intended to help both consumers and card-issuing banks, said David Melancon, a spokesman for Visa.
"We find that there is a basic need for very basic information," he said. "An informed customer is a good customer."
Next month, seminars titled "Money 101: The Basics of Balancing Your Budget" will be held in about 20 U.S. cities.
Visa has signed up consumer journalist Terry Savage to conduct the seminars. A regular on PBS' "Nightly Business Report," she has also appeared on shows like "Oprah" and "Donahue." She won an "outstanding consumer journalism" award from the National Press Club, and her book "Terry Savage's New Money Strategies for the '90s" is a best seller.
"Terry Savage is very respected in the industry," said Gerri Detweiler, an industry consultant and author of "The Ultimate Credit Handbook." Ms. Savage's involvement says much about the usefulness of the program, she added.
Such nonbranded campaigns are nothing new for card companies, Ms. Detweiler said, noting that American Express conducted one.
Visa's seminars will be open to all comers, but member banks may issue invitations to customers whose records indicate potential trouble, Mr. Melancon said. He added that Visa understands that universities and colleges are skeptical of any programs from card associations, expecting marketing to be built in.
To overcome that fear, Visa has developed a "seminar-in-a-box" to let colleges conduct the programs themselves with supplied materials. Such programs would be geared toward freshmen. The college could also get assistance from the National Foundation for Consumer Credit, he said.
"We've got to work up our credibility with these colleges," Mr. Melancon said. "There is a dearth of programs of this sort."