Visa International has teamed up with Gemplus and Sun Microsystems Inc. to introduce multi-application smart cards that cost $3 each when ordered in large volumes - about half the price of other smart cards, the companies were to announce this morning.

The impetus for the program, according to sources in the smart card industry, is that at least nine of the largest U.S. credit card issuers have committed to use the cards, guaranteeing the collaborators the volume they need to offer such a low price. The banks that are said to be participating are Bank of America Corp., Bank One Corp. and its First USA credit card division, Capital One Financial Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., FleetBoston Financial Corp., Citigroup Inc., MBNA Corp., Providian Financial Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co.

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