Chase joins with British Airways Credit card geared to frequent fliers

June 21, 1993|By New York Times News Service

In a move to strengthen its growing presence in the United States, British Airways has joined with the Chase Manhattan Bank to issue a joint Visa credit card that will earn users frequent-flier miles on international and domestic U.S. flights.

Most major U.S. airlines have similar affinity cards with banks, for which card owners typically pay an annual fee of $50 and accrue one frequent-flier mile for every dollar charged. This is the first such arrangement between a major U.S. bank and a major foreign carrier

It comes at a time when frequent-flier miles are increasingly being dangled as lures for everything from hotel stays to magazine subscriptions -- and at a time when frequent-flier programs are growing among carriers in Europe and Asia.

Noting the recent $400 million investment by British Airways in USAir, Randy Peterson, publisher of Inside Flyer, a monthly guide to frequent-flier programs, said: "With USAir in the fold they've become more Americanized in the mind of travelers. Now the alliance with Chase will strengthen that feeling."

Joe Brancatelli, executive editor of Frequent Flyer magazine, said the deal might help British Airways' marketing but do little for Chase.

"The affinity card has generally been a mirage," he said. "The volume is there but not the profits, because people who own them tend to pay their bills within 30 days, so the banks can't collect interest."

Chase Manhattan exudes optimism about its new affinity partner. "We're looking in the area of hundreds of thousands of new members over time," said Thomas C. Lynch, executive vice president of Chase. Many will be leisure travelers, Mr. Lynch said, because they not only take more flights on vacations than in decades past; they tend to take more family members with them.

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