Seeking to streamline its back office operations, the credit card subsidiary of Wachovia Corp. has signed a contract to purchase imaging technology from Dallas-based Banctec Inc.

Officials said Wachovia will install Banctec's ImageFirst payment processing system in its New Castle, Del., bank card operations center.

The Banctec system - which converts paper documents into digitized computer images - will be used to process Visa and MasterCard payments coming from cardholders.

Wachovia, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., has been among the first wave of large banks seeking to employ imaging technology in order to stem the tide of paper flowing through their operations.

Last month, the $39.1 billion-asset bank said it is processing more than a million deposited checks per day using imaging systems from AT&T Global Information Solutions Corp.

The bank will install two imaging-equipped document transports rated at 1,000 paper items per minute, plus imaging software that can electronically "read" handwritten numbers on checks.

Banctec officials said the Wachovia contract was part of four ImageFirst orders worth approximately $5 million in total.

Other recent sales were to USAA Property and Casualty Group, San Antonio; Union Electric Co., St. Louis; and Limited Credit Services, the Columbus, Ohio-based credit card operation of the Limited Group of retail clothing stores.

"We continue to be pleased with the demand for our imaging products," said Banctec chairman and chief executive Grahame N. Clark Jr.

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