First USA Inc. has introduced an integrated credit/debit card terminal that it will market to small to midsize retailers.

The Dallas-based financial services company's Retail Plus 640 operates on terminals from DataCard Corp., based in Minneapolis. First USA Merchant Services added software to accommodate the needs of smaller merchants.

First USA said that retailers who process fewer than 200 credit or debit transactions per day - such as clothing and liquor stores, dry cleaners, and doctor's offices - would find Retail Plus 640 useful.

"This was designed to compete with other terminals in that range," said Pamela H. Patsley, president and chief executive of First USA Merchant Services.

"With many merchants, when they get above 200 transactions, they want more memory," she said. "Although we've sold this to merchants who handle more than 200.

"We developed the Retail Plus 640 with a great deal of input from our merchants," said Ms. Patsley. Bally Total Fitness served as the test merchant, First USA said.

"We found these retailers wanted systems that could be customized to their needs, and yet be easy to learn in the typical retail environment," which she indicated faces high employee turnover.

"It was getting a favorable response during pilot tests," she said. "People were excited enough that we felt it warranted distribution.

"The selling point is that this terminal has more features and fewer buttons," she added, noting that the presence of only seven function keys serves to simplify transactions.

The DataCard terminal has a relatively large two-line display, 20- position keypad, and 128k of random access memory, which allows for sizable transaction volumes without requiring complex coding by users.

Other Retail Plus 640 features include risk management tools aimed at cutting losses due to card fraud and chargebacks; also receipts have a number of lines allowing the merchant to customize messages and receipt headings.

"First USA has taken the DataCard hardware and essentially added value to it," said David Robertson, president of The Nilson Report, an Oxnard, Calif.-based card industry newsletter. "They have taken an existing package and redirected it toward smaller merchants, some of whom would otherwise have the attitude, why should I buy this box when I handle so few transactions?"

The undisputed king of the growing market transaction terminals is Verifone Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif., which netted $27.7 million in 1994 on revenues of $309.1 million. Phoenix-based Hypercom Inc. is considered the distant runner-up.

But up-and-comers like DataCard, Canada's International Verifact and NBS, and even some European and Asian vendors, seem intent on making their presence known.

First USA Inc., which specializes in the credit card business, ranks among the largest issuers of Visa and MasterCard in the United States. First USA Bank has issued more than 11.9 million credit cards and has $15 billion in outstandings.

First USA Merchant Services Inc. processes more than $20 billion annually in credit card sales.

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