NEW YORK - Taxi fleets in at least eight U.S. cities have exressed an interest in a pilot program here in which credit cards are being used to charge phone calls and pay, fares in cabs.

In July, MasterCard International hooked up with a number of cellular phone companies to promote the six-month test.

Last week one of the providers, Cellular Payphones Inc., signed a letter of intent with International Verifact Inc., Cellular Technical Services Co., and Independent Resources Inc. to implement a cellular credit card verification system in taxicabs throughout North America.

Mobile Phones, POS Equipment

In the New York test, mobile phones have been installed in 100 cabs. By November, point of sale equipment will be added to allow consumers in participating taxis to pay fares with a swipe of their credit cards, said Scott Carter, manager of small ticket items at New York-based MasterCard.

U.S. taxi passengers pay about $7 billion in fares annually. MasterCard believes credit cards might capture $1 billion of those payments.

Mastercard has developed signs for the roof of cabs and near the cellular phone inside, and will advertise the program throughout the city.

Mr. Carter said MasterCard will undertake a similar marketing campaign in other cities that have shown interest in the New York program and want to start their own.

Any credit card can be used in the specially equipped cabs.

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