KROGER OFFERS CO-BRANDED VISA PROGRAM

CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here, in conjunction with U.S. Bancorp, Minneapolis, has begun offering customers its new co-branded Visa Rewards credit card in some of its marketing areas.The Kroger Visa Rewards card became available July 28 to customers in Cincinnati, Houston and Dallas/Forth Worth.Other markets should follow later in the year, the retailer said.The new card program is starting as an older

CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here, in conjunction with U.S. Bancorp, Minneapolis, has begun offering customers its new co-branded Visa Rewards credit card in some of its marketing areas.

The Kroger Visa Rewards card became available July 28 to customers in Cincinnati, Houston and Dallas/Forth Worth.

Other markets should follow later in the year, the retailer said.

The new card program is starting as an older card program is ending for the retailer.

Kroger is currently finishing a six-year run with a co-branded MasterCard program through a different bank and decided to make the change to Visa with a new program and new reward offerings.

"The [MasterCard] contract is ready to expire and we decided to close out the contract, based on an ongoing review of the program, and develop a Visa card [program]," said Gary Rhodes, a Kroger spokesman.

Current Kroger MasterCard holders will not automatically be enrolled in the new program when the MasterCard contract ends, Rhodes said, adding that they would have to re-enroll for the Visa card.

Customers who use the Kroger Visa card earn reward points that can be redeemed for items and services such as free groceries, airline tickets, movie rentals, hotel accommodations and free admittance to local attractions in each market.

"There is a greater variety of rewards [with the Visa program]," Rhodes told SN.

Cardholders earn two points for every dollar spent and rewards start at 2,000 points.

The card doesn't have an annual fee as long as it is used three times in a 12-month period, said Rhodes, noting that the amount of the three purchases does not play a part in determining if a card fee applies.

A customer can redeem reward points by calling a toll-free number on the billing statement. The points are then deducted from the following statement.

"We're delighted to offer this enhanced card program to our customers, said Robert G. Miller, Kroger vice chairman and chief operating officer in a statement.