Payment processor Elavon Inc. says more than 170 independent sales organizations and 1,500 banks it works with are the first third-party groups to use an American Express Co. program designed to boost merchant acceptance of AmEx cards. Under the AmEx-designed OnePoint program, merchants check a box on their merchant application if they want to accept AmEx cards. Elavon, which is owned by U.S. Bancorp, then sets up the merchant account, processes and settles the transactions, provides combined statements summarizing all card transactions the merchant accepts, and provides customer support. AmEx retains the merchant contract and sets pricing, but Elavon handles everything else. Atlanta-based Elavon says it is the first processor to use OnePoint with third-party entities. A year ago, Elavon, then known as Nova Information Systems, signed a third-party acquiring deal with AmEx. That deal, along with two others AmEx also signed a year ago with First Data Corp. and Heartland Payments Inc., marked the first time AmEx opened its network to other processors (CardLine, 1/17/08). Stuart C. Harvey Jr., Elavon CEO, says the program will make it easier for ISOs and banks to sign up merchants for AmEx acceptance, expanding the card brand's merchant base. Harvey would not say how many of Elavon's more than 850,000 North America merchants he expects to add AmEx acceptance.