Citgo Petroleum Corp. has agreed to make Heartland Payment Systems Inc.'s SmartLink payment system available to its 6,500 Citgo retailers.

Launched in February, SmartLink consolidates multiple in-store communication lines into one high-speed broadband line and transmits payment data over a secure sockets layer-encrypted network connection. That capability can reduce customer wait times, said Michael Youngkin, Heartland's director of client network solutions.

"It can take them from a slow connection that takes anywhere from eight to 15 seconds to between two and six seconds for a transaction," Youngkin said.

Citgo's retailers process with Heartland, but other merchants that want to use SmartLink are not obligated to have an existing relationship with Heartland for processing, Youngkin said.

Heartland, of Princeton, N.J., announced the Citgo relationship Dec. 2.

SmartLink requires a broadband Internet connection and a hardware terminal. Youngkin would not say what the costs are, but merchants must buy the device and pay a monthly fee, which does not include the per-transaction rates processors apply to payment card transactions.

Since SmartLink's launch, more than 400 merchants have begun using the service, and another 250 are in the installation queue, Youngkin said.

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