Citicorp, which controls New York's largest bank, plans to transfer all its credit-card operations to South Dakota so it can charge its customers higher interest rates than New York law permits.
The bank already has filed its intentions with South Dakota officials an said it will file applications with the Federal Reserve Board and the comptroller of the currency.
Other major banks, such as Chase Manhattan, said today that they, too, are considering moving their credit-card operations to states which have less restrictive usury ceilings.
New York law prohibits credit card issuers from charging more than 18 percent a year on outstanding balances of less than $500 and 12 percent if the balance is more than $500.
South Dakota now has a usury ceiling of 24 percent but after May 1 will impose no ceilings on bank charges.
Jon S. Reed, senior executive vice president of Citicorp, told securities analysts that Citicorp hopes to "celebrate the Fourth of July in Sioux Falls, S.D."
Citicorp issues both Mastercard (formerly Master Charge) and Visa. With 5.8 million cars outstanding -- about 80 percent of them held by individuals living outside New York -- it is the largest credit card issuer in the country.
The Citicorp move -- which could be blocked by federal regulators -- came after a brief, but intense courtship with the South Dakota governor, William Janklow, and the leadership of the South Dakota legislature.
The legislature, which meets only 30 days a year, stopped its session after 29 days to enable legislation to be written to permit Citicorp to set up a new bank in the state.
Ron Williamson, administrative assistant to Janklow, said the governor and Citicorp officials met on the 27th or 28th day of the legislative session. aJanklow then went to the leders of the legislature, who agreed to break on the 29th day for several weeks. "During that break, we put the bill in. When the legislature reconvened, it passed it," Williamson said.
Citicorp said that it sent a lettr to South Dakota announcing its intention to set up the new bank on March 12, the day the South Dakota bill was signed.
"For South Dakota 2,500 jobs is a lot of jobs," Williamson said.
Although the bill was written for Citicorp, it apparently would permit any large bank holding company to establish a nationally chartered bank in South Dakota. The bank must have a capital base of at least $25 million and cannot have more than one office.
Federal banking law prohibits a bank from having branches in more than one state, but the law permits a company that owns a bank (a bank holding company) to set up a national bank in another state if state law permits it.
Citicorp plans to set up a special-purpose bank that will do nothing else but Citicorp's credit card operations.
"It will not accept deposits or anything like that," a spokesman for Citicorp said. "We'll have computer facilities, banks of phones, a mailroom and the like," he said.
At present most of Citicorp's Visa and MasterCard operations are carried out in Huntington, L.I., outside of New York City. Citicorp's major bank, Citibank, doesn't handle the credit cards. Instead, another Citicorp bank within the State of New York processes MasterCard and Visa. All told, about 2,500 persons work in the operation, with 1,800 of them in Huntington.
The spokesman said that the bank hopes to find jobs for as many of the 1800 in Huntington that want to continue to work for Citicorp. "For example, I'm looking for two secretaries now," he said.
Credit card issuers have been under heavy pressure in recent months because the cost of borrowing funds has risen dramatically, while most states impose ceilings on the amount of interest they can charge borrowers.
The credit card industry as a whole may have lost money in the fourth quarter of 1979 -- for the first time in history -- and will lose more money during the first three months of this year.
Banks recently were confronted with a new Federal Reserve regulation -- part of President Carter's anti-inflation package -- which requires them to set aside 15 percent of all credit extensions above their levels in early March, a move that makes it more expensive than before to make credit card loans.