Starting in October, Wachovia Corp. will begin offering Visa's purchasing, corporate, and business cards to its business customers.

Electronic Data Services Corp. in Dallas has signed a letter of intent to provide processing services for these cards, the bank said.

Wachovia, with dual headquarters in Atlanta and Winston-Salem, N.C., has grown rapidly in recent years to become one of the nation's top 20 credit card issuers. It has subsidiary banks are in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and its credit card operation in Atlanta.

Intended for relatively small-dollar business transactions, Visa's purchasing card enables participating companies to reduce the paperwork and labor involved in processing such orders, according to Wachovia. It comes with electronic payment and reporting features allowing corporations to monitor spending, consolidate accounting, and create reports.

Purchasing cards are expected to become a hot commodity for credit card issuers and their corporate customers. PNC Bank Corp., which joined the Visa purchasing program last month, has estimated that a company's small- dollar purchases average $250 and account for as much as 80% of total purchase volume. Internal purchasing processing, from requisition to payment, cost from $50 to $150 a transaction.

"It's an evolving market, and right now we're at the lower end of the curve," said Alan M. Welch, manager of Wachovia's corporate card division. "Purchasing card activity will pick up and revolutionize everything. Suppliers that don't accept them today will be signed up, much like merchants were recruited to accept credit cards in their early days."

The purchasing card market, projected to be $400 billion annually, has barely been tapped, with only 1% of all such purchases currently captured on cards.

Complementing Visa's purchasing card at Wachovia will be a corporate card for travel and entertainment expenses and the business card targeted at smaller businesses. The corporate card also runs on a variety of electronic payment and reporting options.

Michael L. Starr, manager of Wachovia's treasury services group, said Visa's purchasing and corporate cards allow the bank to "combine its expertise in the credit card industry with its already strong cash management services to yield valuable new products and services for our corporate customers."

Wachovia described the Visa business card as a means of streamlining common business expenses for small businesses through preset spending limits and purchasing authorizations. Mr. Welch said adding the business card will "enable the bank to fulfill the purchasing, record-keeping, and credit needs of small businesses."

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