Smartalk Teleservices Inc. said its prepaid phone cards will be able to be activated through the American Express Card Authorization System beginning this fall.

The process, which Smartalk said should take about five seconds, will give retailers more flexibility in selling the cards, because until activation there is no risk of financial loss if a card is stolen.

"Retailers will no longer miss sales opportunities due to hiding cards behind counters," said Jack J. Feingold, Smartalk senior vice president of sales.

Sellers previously had to guard against theft by keeping active prepaid cards in a secure place, and they had to rely on unique and costly proprietary point of sale activation systems.

Smartalk's current client, the U.S. Postal Service, is using the American Express Card Authorization System.

American Express Travel Services offices will also begin using the activation system this fall with new, cobranded Smartalk/American Express cards that offer 30 to 500 minutes of calling time.

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