Yahoo! debuts Visa card in brand-building effort

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Yahoo! expands its offline identity today when it unveils a Yahoo! platinum Visa card.

The card, offered in conjunction with First USA, has a fixed APR rate of 9.99%, no annual fee and an online rewards program. For every dollar consumers spend offline or online, they will earn a point, which can be redeemed through an online merchants program. Cyrk, a Gloucester, Mass., promotion and redemption agency, is managing the rewards program.

The program will be integrated with the credit card services. For instance, at the Yahoo! Visa site, consumers can check their credit card balances, browse a merchant catalog and automatically redeem points. To promote confidence, the credit card will also waive all fraudulent costs.

So, aside from building its offline brand, what does Yahoo! get out of all this?

"It's really more value-add for our merchants," said Karen Edwards, VP-brand marketing. "We want to build the online shopping category."

Redeemers included in the launch are Sharper Image, Cyberian Outpost, Toys.com and others. More partners are likely to come from Yahoo!'s Premier Merchant program, which includes CDnow and Amazon.com.

NOT FIRST TO OFFER CREDIT CARD

Yahoo! isn't the first online brand with a credit card; America Online, for example, offers a Visa card with a rewards program for free online service.

And while the components of Yahoo's card service aren't unique, Steven Smith, president of credit card constancy S. J. Smith & Associates, New York, said "it's the combination of services" that is.

"It's an interesting time for us going forward," added Ms. Edwards. The Yahoo! brand has always been associated with free things, she said, "and now we're going to be doing things to ask people for money."

Copyright February 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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