Wednesday, August 11, 1999 Published at 06:12 GMT 07:12 UK
Toddler issued platinum card
Amercan credit card companies are desperate to attract new customers
By Jane Hughes in New York
An American bank has launched an investigation after mistakenly issuing a three-year-old girl with a credit card.
At three years old, Alessandra Scalise is too young even to be able to sign her name, but that did not deter First Charter Bank from giving her a credit card.
Initially, they sent Alessandra a pre-approved credit application form and her parents filled it in as a joke.
For occupation they wrote "pre-schooler" and for reason for wanting the card, they said: "I would like to buy more toys but mum says not until I'm older."
$5,000 credit limit
Alessandra's mother Antonia was astonished when a platinum card with a $5,000 credit limit arrived a few days later.
Mrs Scalise checked the card was valid by using it to buy groceries, but she decided not to succumb to her daughter's requests to get ballet shoes and a pet dog on credit.
First Charter says it is embarrassed by the mistake and is investigating how it happened.
But to Americans, accustomed to receiving dozens of letters offering credit cards every month, the Scalises' experience comes as no surprise.
It also reinforces what many have suspected for a long time - that some credit-card companies are so anxious to attract new customers they are undiscriminating, even when it comes to receiving applications from three-year-old girls.