TUCSON, Aris. - In announcing last week that it will acquire MAGroup Inc., First USA Inc. signaled that it is playing for keeps on the merchant side of the credit card business.

MAGroups's 6,000 merchant clients will add modestly to what is already the sixth-larget merchant processing operation, with $10.2 billion in sales volume in the 12 months through June 30. But more important to the Dallas-based credit card company is MAGroup's technology.

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