First Data Corp.'s card services division processed more than 745 million debit card transactions in 1998, a 55% increase from the year before.

First Data attributed the increase to its signing of several new debit card customers last year, plus general industry growth.

In 1998, First Data won debit processing contracts from SunTrust Banks Inc., BankBoston Corp., and Bank of New York Co., bringing the number of off-line debit card accounts it serves to 32 million.

One First Data debit client, KeyCorp, had a 35% jump in debit purchase volume and a 27% increase in transactions in 1998, said Sarah Grotta, KeyCorp's vice president of debit card services.

Todd B. Strubbe, president of First Data's debit card services, said, "Our clients experienced phenomenal growth in 1998, and we are pleased that we were positioned with the products and services to help our clients handle that growth."

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