The smart card battle in the U.S. picked up momentum this week when VISA unveiled a smart business card to answer the American Express Blue for Business smart card. The new smart VISA Business card builds on the consumer VISA smart card program introduced last September. FleetBoston will be the first issuer to offer the new VISA product. American Express introduced its first smart card, the Blue Card, in September 1999, and followed with a business version of the same card last year. VISA smart cards initially offer three areas of functionality including payment, access, and loyalty. By focusing initially on the payment function and the Internet, smart VISA allows immediate use and acceptance of the new payment technology. An example of how the chip-enabled technology would work for a merchant would be to use a smart VISA Business card to purchase supplies online and gain volume discounts through the suppliers’ secure Web site. Special offers could be downloaded from the Web site and used at the physical world store. This same business could build a rewards program for its own customers, offering discounts or free merchandise to customers for repeat business. Points or coupons could be awarded for purchases made and stored on the chip. In a different scenario, a contracting firm could issue smart VISA Business cards to its employees, with the chip automatically recording purchase information and integrating it into the firm’s accounting software. FleetBoston and Providian introduced consumer versions of the first smart VISA cards on Sept. 12, 2000. First USA joined the smart card issuers Oct. 24, 2000. The AmEx Blue Card has signed up more than four million cardholders since its launch in Sept. 1999. For more information visit www.visa.com.