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Heartland Payment Systems Inc. is hiring nearly 1,200 workers in a major expansion of its sales team, the company said Tuesday.

Heartland, which processes credit card payments, said it has already hired 101 new sales representatives and plans to hire 1,198 more in the next 18 months.

The company ended last year with 3,055 full-time and part-time workers, according to a securities filing, about 1,750 of them in sales and marketing.

There are ample signs that consumers are again using cards, both debt and credit, as the recession loosens its grip.

Last week, MasterCard Inc. said its first-quarter profit jumped 24 percent.

In late April, Visa Inc. said its second-quarter profit rose 33 percent and it forecast strong revenue growth for the entire year.

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