Seven major U.S. firms have put their clout behind the Mondex “electronic cash on a card” system. The companies, which include Wells Fargo, AT&T, and Chase Manhattan Bank, are forming a group to market the “stored value” cards in the USA. Mondex was formed by U.K.’s National Westminster Bank in 1990. The bank spun off the smart-card division, calling it Mondex International. Mondex introduced their card in Swindon, England – taking the town cashless in August of 1995. Mondex is an alternative to cash for point-of-purchase retail transactions. A computer chip embedded in the card can store cash electronically. Value is deducted each time a purchase is made. Mastercard International is apparently eager to embrace the Mondex system and has already committed to purchasing 51% of the new joint venture. "We used 1997 for working out kinks in the system," says Janet Crane, CEO of Mondex USA. Among the several tests now underway: •AT&T is testing an internet smart card system for shopping on the Internet. •In October, Visa Cash, Mondex, Citibank, and Chase Manhattan, launched a smart-card pilot in Manhattan, sharing a common debit terminal at points of purchase. Visa Cash – a smart-card system with merchant terminals linked to a central computer – is Mondex's biggest U.S. competitor. Mondex allows card users to transfer credit from one card to another and doesn't charge merchants a per transaction fee as Visa does. Others companies joining Mondex USA are First Chicago NBD, Dean Witter Discover (NOVUS), MasterCard, and Michigan National Bank.

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