So far the federal government has led development of travel and entertainment (T&E) smart card technology. But now Minneapolis, -based U.S. Bancorp, a major issuer of Visa cards and 3-G International (3GI), a rapidly growing Springfield, VA technology firm, have teamed up to enhance the use of smart cards by commercial firms.

T&E smart cards can process large quantities of unrelated information just like a computer, securely storing an executive's frequent flyer data and car rental information. Traditionally, the cards have also been used to give airline travelers faster check-ins and express boarding. Now, U.S. Bancorp and 3GI are developing a radically new version that could save a company millions of dollars in lost bonuses. In a pilot program for Siemens Corp., the two firms are adding features to the card that will assure that company employees receive favorable vendor rates when they travel. "Siemens found it was losing over $1 million a year in employee bookings with one airline alone," says Ralph Bernstein, U.S. Bancorp's vice president of electronic products. He says the bank is working with Siemens to incorporate ID numbers in employee cards to overwrite over-billing.

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