Visa launches "electronic cash" in Argentina

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BUENOS AIRES -- Visa Argentina has formally launched "electronic money" in the country with the introduction of a special microchip embedded card.

Visa's $5m investment, which follows an eight- month pilot project, will initially be directed at those making small purchases in places like kiosks, bars, telephones and toll booths.

The credit card company expects the new product will start with some 100,000 users, helped along by an accord signed with McDonald's Argentina to accept the card, known as Visa Cash.

The electronic money card, to be sold by local banks, will be good for a specific sum of money. Once that is spent, the card can then be recharged in banks or at bank machines.

Visa Argentina had 1996 sales of $5bn, anticipated to reach $6.5bn this year. The company has four million credit cards and 1.5 million debit cards distributed in Argentina.

At the same time, across the other side of the world, the first pre-paid cash card has been launched into India by New Delhi-based Escort Finance. Dubbed E-cash, the microchip-enhanced card can be reloaded after the cash balance in the account is used up.

Dutch-owned supermarket chain Nanz's Delhi outlets will be the first to allow the use of these cards. Escort hopes soon to introduce the card in other parts of India. The marketer says a yearly charge of $7 will be levied on consumers for using the card.

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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