10.20.1995Enterprise Tech

Avis, LDDS WorldCom offer telephone debit cards to renters

JACKSON, Miss.-- LDDS WorldCom and Avis Rent A Car will soon launch one of the largest long-distance debit card marketing programs in the United States. Beginning Nov. 17, Avis customers receive a specially designed debit card with 10 minutes of prepaid long distance to help them stay in touch with family, friends and business associates when traveling away from home. Avis and LDDS WorldCom will distribute more than 3 million cards to Avis car rental customers across the United States.

The cards can be used for domestic or international calls and, using a credit card, can be recharged anytime from a touch-tone phone for additional long distance usage. "Our customers tell us that their busy travel schedules do not leave much time to stop and call loved ones or check in with their office as much as they'd like," stated Joseph V. Vittoria, Avis chairman and chief executive officer. "Avis employee-owners are committed to easing the travel experience of our customers, and these telephone calling cards are a way to thank them for their business by making their trip a bit more relaxing and convenient." "When you consider the largest debit card promotions that have taken place in the U.S., LDDS WorldCom is most often listed as the long distance partner. We have participated in the largest and most visible campaigns to date," said Frank Grillo, vice president of marketing for LDDS WorldCom. "But this is the first time a campaign of this size has specifically targeted the traveler, for whom the debit card is an ideal solution."

Debit cards, which allow the user to pre-purchase a specific amount of long distance to be used in increments when needed, long have been popular in Europe. But more U.S. corporations and users are looking to the cards to solve their long distance and marketing needs. Since the cards carry a specific dollar value, losses from theft or misplacement are limited. Also, theft from "hackers" who steal access codes from travel card users can be minimized. "For business travelers, particularly those who must itemize personal calls from business calls in the monthly statement, a debit card that can automatically eliminate this paperwork and provide them with convenient long distance service will be extremely valuable," Grillo said. In addition, corporations are increasingly finding value in the cards as a marketing or promotional tool in part due to the value customers attach to long distance service. "Long distance service transcends all socio-economic and demographic barriers because everyone knows the value of long distance service. It's more than just another marketing item because people will use debit cards. And, the design and quality of the cards causes them to be valued as collectibles as well," Grillo said. "Phone cards eliminate the need to make collect calls or carry loose change," Vittoria said. "When you are on the run with only a few free moments, phone cards offer an extremely easy and quick way to make a call without trouble or interruption."

Avis is one of the largest employee-owned companies in the United States with more than 13,500 employee-owners. The Avis system includes approximately 4,800 rental locations in about 140 countries around the world, serving both business and leisure travelers. One of the four largest long distance telecommunications companies in the United States, LDDS WorldCom offers domestic and international voice, data and video products and services to business customers, other carriers and the residential market. It operates a nationwide digital fiber optic network and has worldwide network capacity.

The common shares of WorldCom, Inc. trade on The NASDAQ Stock Market under the symbol WCOM.

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