First Data Corp.'s card services group has been hired by SunTrust BankCard to provide processing services for SunTrust credit card, debit card, and home equity line clients.

SunTrust BankCard, Orlando, ranked 45th nationally, has a base of 1.1 million credit and debit cards. It provides credit and debit card acceptance for 22,000 merchant locations.

First Data also will provide statement rendering, card embossing, and other services.

For SunTrust's merchant base, First Data will provide full- service processing, which includes merchant accounting, back office, and front-end processing services.

Separately, First Data Corp.'s card services group said it has upgraded its relationship with Cardservice International.

First Data previously had a referral deal with Cardservice, one of the biggest of the independent service organizations, or ISOs, that make provisions for generally smaller retailers to clear their card transactions.

The agreement gives First Data an equity position in Cardservice and a seat on its board, which will continue to be headed by chairman and chief executive officer Chuck Burtzloff. The financial terms were not disclosed.

Mr. Burtzloff said virtually all of First Data's merchant bank alliances - joint ventures providing merchant processing services - had links to the First Data-Cardservice referral program. It allowed banks to retain control of their merchant relationships while relying on Cardservice and First Data for support.

The expanded agreement "reinforces the referral alliance program by automating and formalizing the referral process so that all First Data merchant services clients can serve their customers in an efficient and seamless way," said Roger Peirce, president of the First Data electronic funds services group.

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