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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flat panel debit, credit cards hit U.S.

In September 2008, Visa Inc. introduced unembossed consumer debit, credit and business debit cards in the United States. Unembossed payment cards feature a printed account number and cardholder name, rather than the traditional embossed, raised lettering currently found on most U.S. credit and debit products.

Visa changed its operating regulations in the United States to allow the issuance of unembossed cards. The implementation of the flat cards follows a series of successful pilot tests with a dozen financial institutions, including Commerce Bancshares Inc., TD Banknorth and United Heritage Credit Union.

Instantly, in-house

Traditional embossed cards typically require longer production times and more complex supply chain management. Since embossed cards need to be manufactured offsite, they are generally shipped to cardholders days after enrollment. The ability to provide personalized, printed cards instantly at the issuing bank branch enables cardholders to begin using their cards immediately.

Each branch will have the capability to digitally print an unembossed Visa-branded card that is metallic red in color.

According to Stacey Pinkerd, Head of Global Consumer Debit Products, Visa, the new unembossed cards will have magnetic stripes, but financial institutions can also choose to issue unembossed Visa payWave contactless cards.

"Visa is always looking for ways to bring more value to our clients and their cardholders," Pinkerd said. "By allowing the issuance of unembossed cards, we enable issuers to choose the distribution method that best meets their business needs, while offering customers greater flexibility and convenience."

Brick-and-mortar, e-commerce

Visa has supported unembossed prepaid cards in the U.S. since 2005; the new debit and credit cards are accepted by most Visa merchants, with the exception of those merchants who require a manual imprint at the POS with zip-zap machines, also known as knucklebusters. The cards are accepted for e-commerce transactions as well. Additionally, no special electronic readers or terminals are required for implementation.

"Being able to instantly provide members with Visa cards has helped us drive activation, usage and loyalty while reducing costs," said Michael Ver Shurr, Executive Vice President at United Heritage. "Not only that, our cardholders felt secure receiving their cards directly at the branch and enjoyed the ability to access their accounts conveniently right away."

end of article

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