The New York Times said Monday that Citibank, the world's largest issuer of credit cards, plans to announce that it will guarantee people who shop with its cards that they will pay the lowest available price for their purchases.
The newspaper said Citibank, a unit of Citicorp, the largest U.S. banking company, could make the announcement as early as Monday. It said other banks that issue credit cards, as well as the American Express Co., could well follow suit.A cardholder who buys a videocas-sette recorder for $500 and finds it sold elsewhere for a lower price could claim a rebate of the difference from Citibank, the Times explained.
Seemingly this would enable card-holders to shop for electronics at higher-cost stores or for books at local stores that charge list prices with the bank picking up the difference, it said.
The service would cover consumer electronics, furniture, clothing and many other items but not air travel, art or antiques - or goods bought at "going-out-of-business," "limited quantity" and "cash-only" sales.
The newspaper said Citibank clearly believed the policy would attract enough business to offset the cost. It quoted James L. Bailey, in charge of credit-card products at Citibank, as saying the service was like airplane meals, on which the airline does not make money.
"But if the meals and the rest of the service are better and more competitive, then the airlines make more money by more people flying their planes."
The Times said credit-card issuers are resorting to such incentives because nearly everyone who qualifies now has a card with up to 90 percent of eligible households having American Express, Visa, MasterCard or the Discover card. American consumers last year charged $350 billion of goods and services on credit cards.