CO-BRANDED CARD ATTRACTS HARVEST CHAIN

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Harvest Foods is preparing to introduce the Harvest MasterCard Feb. 1, armed with dollar credits and rebates in the form of grocery items.

The 54-store chain, based in Little Rock, Ark., will issue gift certificates for Harvest merchandise as a form of rebate to cardholders. And customers who spend $50 using their card by April 30 will receive $5 off their first statement.

Harvest is believed to be only the third food chain to issue a co-branded credit card, said Robert Rough, chief financial officer. The others are Hy-Vee Food Stores and Kroger Co.

Metropolitan National Bank is co-sponsor of the Harvest card.

The current 7.92% interest rate is among the lowest in the nation due to an Arkansas law that decrees maximum credit card interest rates may not exceed the current federal discount rate by more than 5 points.

There also is an annual $25 fee for the card.

The interest rate "is what sold us on the card when Metropolitan approached us with the idea," Mr. Rough said.

Co-branding of credit cards has become a trend, with computer, auto and airline marketers among those tying their names to cards.

Promotional and ad support will come through the chain's weekly circulars, newspaper ads, taglines on current ads and some TV, said Cindy Jenkins, account exec at Frank J. Wills, the Little Rock agency handling Harvest's account.

"Marketing will begin at kickoff, and we will be doing some standalone print ads for the kickoff," Ms. Jenkins said. "For the regular-price and item ads, we will have a tagline."

She said promotions will extend to other markets where Harvest is represented-Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana-depending on how well the card does.

Mr. Rough said an initial run of 5,000 to 10,000 cards is being planned.

Metropolitan has branches in three Harvest stores and will have some promotional materials in those locations, as well as include statement stuffers promoting the card.M

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