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Visa, American Express Rehash Their Battle : Marketing: New Optima card prompts more swipes in full-page newspaper ads.

October 14, 1994|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — American Express' introduction of a new credit card has prompted another flare-up in its bitter brawl with Visa, with each company again taking full-page swipes at the other in major newspapers.

American Express ran advertisements Thursday, responding to two sardonic-sounding Visa ads that have been seen in 11 major cities since American Express' new Optima True Grace credit card was introduced in September.

The ads renew the longstanding fight over the number of merchants that take the cards and they also battle over interest rates.

One of the Visa ads says--in big, bold-faced letters--that, "American Express is offering you a new credit card, but you don't have to accept it. . . . Heck, 7 million merchants don't."

A second features a globe with dots on it and says, "The places that accept the new American Express Optima True Grace Card dot the world." Then, beneath a second globe with many more dots on it, the ad says, "We just have 7 million more dots than they do."

One of American Express' new ads takes a positive tone, hawking the merits of its new card, but the other lashes out at Visa, asking: "Why is Visa incorrectly claiming 7 million more merchants than American Express? (We challenge them to name them.) Answer: So you won't notice the $1.5 BILLION unnecessary interest they charge you."

Tom Ryder, an American Express official, acknowledged there is a gap in merchants that take the company's cards, but he said it is "substantially less than 7 million," and he contended Visa's figures are inaccurate and misleading.

"We do not believe that Visa knows how many merchants they have," Ryder said, adding that Visa's use of statistics from banks and other organizations that issue its cards are "notoriously unreliable."

David Brancoli, a spokesman for Visa International, said his company stands by its numbers.

"We'd be happy to list those merchants if American Express would pay for the ad space," he said.

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