SAN FRANCISCO -- Visa International and Sprint have introduced a nationwide telephone service that has been a year in the making.

The service retains the name of a previous program, VisaPhone, which has been discontinued and replaced with "the next generation of bank card calling cards," said a Visa spokesman.

Each of Visa's 170 million U.S. casholders can call a tollfree number to sign up for the service.

Cardholders can have their phone charges billed either to a Visa card account or directly by Sprint When calls are billed to Visa, cardholders receive 25% off AT&T's per-minute rates. They earn 15% off AT&T rates when they pay Sprint directly.

Visa cardholders who sign up can dial 10-VSA to place a call from a U.S. phone. A cardholder then enters an easy-to-remember number (usually a home telephone number) plus a four-digit authorization code.

The briefs were compiled from staff and wire reports.

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