Magazine article American Banker

First USA and Discover Launch Culture Cards

Magazine article American Banker

First USA and Discover Launch Culture Cards

Article excerpt

Credit card issuers want to offer music and history enthusiasts a chance to fortify the dwindling budgets of cultural and arts organizations.

Last week, First USA Inc. launched a series of affinity cards for the Orchestra Partnership, an alliance of 14 major symphony orchestras nationwide, and Dean Witter, Discover & Co. kicked off a marketing campaign for its Smithsonian Institution card.

Earlier this month, Dallas-based First USA rolled out a Visa card for jazz fans and announced plans to sponsor the First Annual Jazz Awards later this year.

Cutbacks at the national level in support for the arts have forced ballet troupes, symphony orchestras, and opera companies to look for new revenue, said Stanley Anderson, president of Anderson & Associates, Arvada, Colo.

Federal contributions to the Smithsonian were scaled back by almost $5 million, to $371.3 million, for the 1997 fiscal year.

Funding from the National Endowment for the Arts for the 850 symphony orchestras in the United States plummeted 57.4% between 1995 and 1997, to $9.66 million, said a spokeswoman for the American Symphony Orchestra League in Washington.

Mr. Anderson said music and arts supporters tend to display great loyalty to the institutions.

A percentage of all purchases on the Tops Symphony Series Visa will benefit local urban education, community outreach programs, and orchestra touring.

Each no-fee Visa card will feature the name and logo of one of the 14 orchestras.

An introductory interest rate of 5.9% will jump after five months to a fixed rate of 15.9%.

The cards are available in classic, gold, or platinum versions. Applications will be available at concerts, by direct mail, and by toll free number. Cardholders can also enroll in First USA's Value Miles frequent-flier program for $25 a year.

For 825 smaller orchestras not eligible for the Tops program, the symphony league is trying to establish another product. …

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