Visa has begun the long-awaited roll-out of chip card technology to banks and consumers in the United States. The first smart Visa cards will be issued by First USA, FleetBoston and Providian Financial this autumn.
Visa says it is in discussions with other financial institutions which are interested in switching to chip technology. Based on the Open Platform specification, the cards can be adapted by individual banks to offer multiple applications for both the physical and online world.
Used in conjunction with a smart card reader connected to a PC, smart Visa cards may be used to provide consumers with secure access to value-added content on Issuer web sites, to facilitate secure online payment, and ultimately, to enable cardholders to download new applications via their PCs without applying for a new card.
"Over the past five years, the evolution of the Internet and impact of e-commerce has generated an increased demand in the US for payment products offering enhanced technology and applications," says Al Banisch, senior vice president of consumer credit products, Visa USA. "Consumers expect new technologies, with time and convenience being of the utmost importance. smart Visa delivers tremendous benefits to cardholders, providing greater security in tandem with financial information, more efficient online commerce, and highly personalised benefits and services."
More than 23 million Visa-branded chip cards are currently circulating worldwide. The US banking community has so far resisted the move to smart cards. But, with the cost of chip technology decreasing and the penetration of home computer usage on the rise, the potential for smart cards in the US is beginning to be realised.