SafeCard Services Inc., a unit of Ideon Corp., has signed a letter of intent to acquire United Bank Services, a Norman, Okla.-based enhancement provider.

Terms of the sale, expected to be completed early next year, include $18 million at closing and up to $12 million over the next three years.

"They have marketed products to credit unions and other institutions that we have not reached," said Bill Lackey, an Ideon spokesman. "Since the downsizing, we are committed to growing our three core businesses."

These include SafeCard, a credit card protection network; Wright Express, which provides credit cards and related information services to commercial transportation fleets; and Ideon Card Services Corp., a provider of credit card marketing and services.

Mr. Lackey was referring to Ideon's tumultuous summer, in which the company fired about 30% of its employees, including chief operating officer John R. Birk. Ideon also withdrew marketing support for the PGA Tour Partners MasterCard, issued by SunTrust Bankcard, and abandoned its Family Protection Network, a child registration service.

This signaled almost total retreat from the ambitious expansion strategy of chairman Paul G. Kahn.

United Bank Services provides products and services through financial institutions such as insurance, travel-related services, member services, merchant, and reward/loyalty marketing programs.

In January, United Bank Services teamed up with Old Kent Financial Corp. of Grand Rapids, Mich., to add a frequent-flier enhancement to its credit cards.

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