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 SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- To offer its member financial institutions an entire new product line to provide their customers, Visa is preparing to launch the industry's first international pre-paid card. The first application, to be piloted in 1994, is a low-cost card that provides travelers with the convenience and safety of obtaining local currency 24 hours per day through Visa's 160,000 ATMs located in 65 countries. If lost or stolen, the card can be replaced anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
 Visa predicts that its members could sell as many as 2 million cards with a value of $1.3 billion in North America alone during its first year of full distribution. According to Visa research, consumers like to set aside "dedicated" travel funds that can be replaced within 24 hours if lost or stolen and that can be accessed overseas in local currency at favorable exchange rates.
 "This new product category complements our existing product line and will offer members an effective tool to boost business among existing customers as well as attract new cardholders," said Visa U.S.A. President and Chief Executive Officer Carl Pascarella. He added that Visa predicts 80 percent of the volume spent on the new pre-paid card product will be incremental business for member financial institutions.
 According to Pascarella, Visa is also exploring many other applications of the pre-paid, "dedicated" funds product as part of its overall campaign to become the world's preferred payment method over cash and checks. Other potential uses include a "gift card" product for friends and relatives, a money transfer service between individuals or organizations, and a corporate cash advance product. The pre-paid product could ultimately be used at the point of sale. Visa will also explore the use of chip technology that could enable members to offer pre-paid products that operate in chip environments.
 Following its 1994 pilot in selected Visa regions, the Visa pre- paid card will be made available in 1995 to consumers around the world.
 Members will sell the product to customers in the same manner they sell travelers cheques currently. The card, which will be the same size as other Visa cards and bears a magnetic stripe, is purchased with whatever amount of funds the customer wants. At the time of purchase, the customer receives or selects a four- to six-digit PIN (personal identification number), which is used to get cash at any Visa ATM. A record of the pre-paid amount is stored at a central Visa processing site, which is available for authorization 24 hours a day, and the card is available for use immediately.
 When a customer wants cash, he or she goes to the nearest Visa ATM, inserts the plastic card, keys in the PIN, enters the amount of cash desired and receives the local currency immediately at a favorable exchange rate. When the card's value is used up, the cardholder can either throw it away or, if a small balance remains, return it to a Visa member financial institution for a refund on the balance.
 To support the product, Visa will maintain a 24-hour customer service assistance center to handle lost or stolen card replacements. Anywhere in the world, a customer will receive a replacement card within 24 hours -- either by dropping by a local selling location to pick up a new card or receiving a new card via messenger service.
 Visa, with more than 10.5 million acceptance locations and 318 million cards issued, is the world's largest consumer card payment system. Visa also has the leading ATM network globally.
 -0- 11/10/93
 /CONTACT: Gregory Holmes of Visa U.S.A., 415-432-2107/

CO: Visa U.S.A. ST: California IN: FIN SU: PDT

SG -- SF012 -- 2713 11/10/93 11:26 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 10, 1993

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