Bank of America Merrill Lynch has expanded the global reach of its payment cards while also preparing to provide new technology to clients in the Single Euro Payments Area who will soon deal with far more cross-border payments.

Bank of America's array of commercial credit and prepaid cards are now available to large and middle-market companies in Argentina, the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the company announced July 26.

In addition to expanding its commercial cards throughout Europe, the bank also said it would offer SEPA Direct Debits technology to commercial card clients seeking to simplify operations and save money by coordinating multiple pieces of equipment for SEPA acceptance and reducing paper documents often needed when managing cardholder accounts.

Under the SEPA initiative from the European Union, all countries in the single euro zone must replace existing, country-specific local payment instruments by 2014.

"As more companies seek growth internationally, they are realizing the inherent advantages – such as transparency and risk controls – that card programs bring to managing cross-border payments," Kevin Phalen, head of Global Card and Comprehensive Payables at B of A Merrill, stated in a press release.

The bank's expansion into new countries underscores the company's commitment to provide global card solutions for its clients, Phalen added.

Duncan Kennett, director of EMEA Commercial Card at Bank of America Merrill, said the company's investment in the SEPA Direct Debits technology was made "as early as possible so that we could help our clients get a head start in the SEPA conversion process."

Other companies, such as Wayne, Pa.-based SunGard Data Systems Inc., have previously announced SEPA Direct Debit technology to help banks transition into single-currency management.

Some of the bank's cards in the European regions, and in Argentina, will be offered through local issuing banks, the bank stated.

In addition to preparing for SEPA in Europe, the bank has also been educating U.S. cardholders, especially those who often travel, on how the EMV chip-and-PIN product works while in Europe and also in preparation for the EMV migration to the U.S.

Industry research firm Celent issued a report in October indicating that banks in the euro zone would be wise to obtain new technology and essentially rebuild their payments systems in preparation for SEPA, rather than hoping to somehow upgrade old equipment to accept new standards.

Still other researchers have indicated that the preparation of payment systems for SEPA in Europe could ultimately play an important role in easing the financial pressures on the continent because banks would be ready for a smooth transition.

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