Equifax Inc. has introduced a service, Decision Power Retail, meant to help retailers promote proprietary credit cards by deciding within seconds on a check customer's creditworthiness.

When customers pay for merchandise with a personal check, the service lets merchants offer a store card on the spot.

Equifax said the product prescreens customers in about 15 seconds for the retailer's established credit card criteria.

"Decision Power Retail converts check writers into credit users within seconds, automating the credit granting process and saving everyone time," Thomas F. Chapman, executive vice president of Equifax Financial Services, said in a release.

The product is incorporated into the merchant's check authorization process. Equifax tested it at the Boscov's department store, Laurendale, Pa., and at a women's retail clothing franchise, which it declined to identify.

Decision Power Retail is part of a marketing product, Decision Power, Equifax developed in 1994 to help banks offer customers credit and debit card products while they are in the branch to open a checking account.

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