SAN FRANCISCO – Card giant VISA USA has announced that issuers of its VISA check card can defer participation in the VISA Extras rewards program for the card. Previously, the VISA Extras program was considered part of the "core" VISA offering and thus mandatory for issuers who had not opted out during a short period last fall. Citing the recent litigation settlement with a class or retailers, VISA announced that participation in the VISA Extras program remained part of the core offering for business cards but that check card issuers could defer their participation until more time had passed, presumably to allow the institution to measure the impact reduced interchange income has. The card association has also announced that it will defer advertising its core products until the first quarter of 2004. Financial institutions that decide to go ahead and launch VISA Extras on their debit cards will be able to structure it differently, the association said. Previously, a cardholder would get one reward point for every dollar spent until $4,000 was reached, at which point the cardholder would earn one point for every $2. But now VISA has announced that financial institutions will be able to scrap the initial rewards tier and offer one point for every $2 from the very start.

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