Visa launches cut-price chip card programme

Visa launches cut-price chip card programme

A major programme to offer banks a family of low cost multi-application smart cards has been launched by Visa International, together with IBM and Philips Semiconductors, supported by four smart card manufacturers.

The programme, called Visa Price Breakthrough, will enable Visa member banks to obtain Open Platform multi-application smart cards, starting at less than three dollars each, from card manufacturers Giesecke & Devrient, Oberthur Card Systems, Orga and Schlumberger. This cuts in half the average price of a microprocessor chip card of around six dollars.

The family of new smart cards is based on the Java Card 2.1 and the Open Platform 2.0 specifications. The price of the initial card includes two applications, such as Visa credit/debit and another application, loaded to the read-only memory (ROM) with room for multiple applications in the erasable memory (Eeprom). This means issuers can decide what additional applications they may like to offer, such as loyalty or secure Internet access, depending upon market needs. These applications can be securely added or removed after the card has been issued.

Three more cut-price card products will be made available under the scheme. The second card will provide public key encryption while the third and fourth cards will see memory size increased from 48k ROM to 96k ROM and 16k Eeprom to 32k Eeprom. These cards will be public key and non-public key versions. Applications can be loaded after the cards have been issued or added to the ROM during chip production freeing data memory (Eeprom) for other application or service data.

The chips are manufactured by Philips Semiconductors and contain new technology developed by IBM. Giesecke & Devrient, Oberthur Card Systems, Orga and Schlumberger have all agreed to manufacture smart cards offering the new low cost chips.

Stephen Schapp, executive vice president, global product platforms, Visa International, says: “This price breakthrough will significantly change the dynamics of the smart card marketplace. Cards will be much more affordable for issuers, which will help accelerate the global transition from simple magnetic stripe cards to dynamic multi-application smart cards.”

The new smart cards will be demonstrated at Cartes 2000 in Paris (24-26 October) and will be available from early 2001.

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