MBNA America Bank yesterday introduced a premium credit card with a limit that can give consumers who qualify enough cash to put a hefty down payment on a house.
The nation's second-largest bank card issuer behind Citibank is offering the no-fee MBNA Platinum Plus Visa or MasterCard, which has a credit limit of up to $100,000.
The new card should be in consumers' hands within four to six weeks, said Peter Osborne, a spokesman for the Wilmington, Del.-based company.
"We are constantly surveying our customers and this is something they told us they wanted," he said.
The card will be sent to virtually anyone, but it's aimed at individuals who qualify for credit lines in excess of $10,000, Mr. Osborne said. The minimum limit on the card is $5,000.
Mr. Osborne declined to discuss the qualifications a customer would have to have to receive a $100,000 limit.
Industry observers were skeptical that the card will bring customers in by the droves because of the large credit line.
"It doesn't matter," said Spencer Nilson, publisher of the Nilson Reports, a newsletter that tracks the credit card industry. "Maybe about a dozen people will qualify."
"It is not going to get a million accounts," said Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
The card promises quick service when the cardholder has questions, an "exclusive" 24-hour travel agency service, $1 million common carrier travel accident insurance and preferred rates on MBNA deposit products.
Consumers can pay a $35 annual fee to earn points toward free air travel, too. Participants receive one point for every $1 in net retail charges, with a 50 percent bonus on new purchases each month the balance isn't paid off.
The card has a five-month introductory rate of 5.9 percent, which jumps to 16.9 percent. Consumers who are affiliated with groups that endorse MBNA credit cards, can receive a lower rate of interest, Mr. Osborne said.
Stephanie Caracristi, a spokeswoman with Foster City, Calif.-based Visa USA, said there are other "premium" credit cards being offered today, but she didn't know offhand of any with a $100,000 limit.
American Express has been issuing a platinum card for years, and it has no credit limit.
"I don't think they [American Express] are shaking in their shoes," said Mr. Orenbuch. "It is not as high-end as the American Express platinum product."
MBNA's new offering should set it apart from other issuers, Mr. Orenbuch said.
MBNA is known throughout the industry for its innovative credit cards that carry everything from the helmet of the customer's favorite football team to pictures of crooner Frank Sinatra.
Mr. Osborne said the company began marketing the platinum card on Monday.