OMAHA - Wachovia Bank Card Services has joined First Data Corp.'s Merchant Bank Alliance program.

Under the agreement, First Data, the giant third-party credit card and merchant processor, will provide merchant processing and back-office services, as well as some of its merchant contracts through its merchant processing arm, Card Establishment Services.

Wachovia will turn over its merchant business to the joint venture, which will be co-owned by the two companies. Wachovia serves 13,000 merchants at 24,000 locations with more than $3 billion in volume annually.

The alliance will afford the $44 billion-asset bank the opportunity to sell banking services to First Data's merchant base. First Data will have access to new customers through Wachovia's branch network throughout Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

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