Cincinnati-based The Provident Bank announced yesterday it is unloading about 80% of its bank credit card portfolio and entering into an agent bank relationship. Direct Merchants Bank signed the contract to purchase approximately 130,000 total accounts with $160 million in receivables and to offer bankcard products to Provident’s 400,000 consumer banking customers. According to CardData ([www.carddata.com]), Provident had 230,000 accounts and about $200 million in outstandings at the end of the first quarter. However, only about 36% of Provident’s credit card accounts were active in 1Q/01 and 4Q/00 compared to an industry average of 56%. Direct Merchants, one the nation’s fastest growing sub-prime credit card issuers, says it expects the deal to close by September 30 and the conversion to be completed by year’s end. Metris Companies/Direct Merchants recently crossed the $10 billion mark in credit card receivables and has approximately 4.6 million accounts.