MBNA Corp. on Thursday said it will offer American Express Co. credit cards, marking the first time a major issuer of Visa or MasterCard credit cards will market the cards in the United States.
The cards, expected to be rolled out in 2004, will carry the American Express logo and be accepted on the American Express network.
But the cards will not be offered until legal issues between American Express and Visa and MasterCard are resolved.
Last year a federal appeals court struck down a rule by Visa and MasterCard that prohibited its card-issuing banks from putting out other branded cards, such as American Express or Morgan Stanley's Discover.
Visa and MasterCard have asked a U.S. appeals court in New York not to put the ruling into effect while they plan an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We are confident that the legal issues will be resolved some time in 2004," said Ken Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express, in an interview.
Visa and MasterCard could not immediately be reached for comment.
Chenault and Bruce Hammonds, MBNA president and CEO, declined to disclose financial terms.
"We would not, in fact, take the time and devote resources if we thought this was a minor opportunity," Chenault said.
Hammonds said the deal was "economically favorable." MBNA will own the loans and manage and service the accounts on its own systems.
Hammonds said it was "a great opportunity" to get new customers who didn't want a MasterCard or Visa, but "would love to have an MBNA product with the American Express brand."
Hammonds said MBNA will make a "fair amount" of technology investing so it can offer the cards after legal issues are resolved.
Chenault said the cards will target high-spending, affluent customers. The cards will be rolled out first in the United States, and then Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom.
American Express shares rose 1.6 percent to $50.56, while MBNA added nearly 1.6 percent to $26.92 in morning trading, both on the New York Stock Exchange.