Payment Card News

First VISA Smart Cards

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This week marked the beginning of the migration from magnetic stripe bank credit cards to smart chip bank credit cards in the USA. VISA raised the curtain on the smart VISA card and now has a product to take on the one-year old American Express Blue Card. Three major issuers, representing about 20% of the total credit card market, immediately announced they will issue the new VISA smart cards. Fleet announced its “Fusion smart VISA” card, Providian unleashed its “Clear smart VISA”, and Bank One/First USA will be announcing their smart VISA program soon. Like the AmEx Blue Card, the new smart cards will evolve. Initially the cards will do little more than magnetic stripe cards. Apart the payment function, the smart cards, when used in conjunction with a smart card reader connected to a PC, have the ability to provide consumers with secure access to value-added content on the Bank’s web sites, to facilitate secure online payment, and ultimately, to enable cardholders to download enhancements to their cards via their PCs without ever having to get a new card. VISA says card issuers will most likely add other applications involving access and loyalty. However it is up to each issuer to enhance its smart cards. Of the two smart VISA cards rolled this week, the Providian version is clearly the sexiest. Providian’s smart card is clear and will be marketed around the “Clear” theme. For example Providian’s card benefits include “Clear Advantage”, “Clear Security”, “Clear Problem Resolution”, “Clear Satisfaction”, and “Clear Future”. In September 1999, American Express released the first general purpose smart credit card in the USA. The AmEx Blue Card is translucent and is loaded with benefits for the techo-savvy crowd. Over the past twelve months AmEx has signed up more than three million cardholders and expects to reach four million by year end. Fleet Credit Card Services said that its Fusion smart VISA will begin accepting applications this morning. Providian said its Clear smart VISA will be marketed initially to a limited list of potential customers, and by the end of the year to customers across the credit spectrum. VISA has big plans for its smart card program as it expects to extend the smart VISA brand to its debit and business card products next year. The smart VISA card may also offer some potential relief to Internet merchants. The Internet authentication offered on the new card, coupled with some other to-be-announced initiatives, may lead to lower merchant chargeback and acceptance costs. For more information or to apply for the new Fleet smart VISA card visit www.fusioncard.com.

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