Visa nudges Asia into cashless era with HK card launch

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BOMBAY -- International payments franchise Visa International has launched in Hong Kong its Prime Visa Cash brand, Asia's first multipurpose stored value card.

British-owned Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China Group have jointly introduced the card, which is the region's initial step towards electronic cash transactions. The cards, 100,000 of which will be initially issued in denominations of $26, will be sold through 150 select branches of both banks.

Visa will introduce by July 1997 the entire range of disposable, reloadable Prime Visa Cash cards. In Hong Kong, about 1,000 retailers including fast-food chains, gas stations, bookstores, video rental shops, department and convenience stores and hair salons have already signed up to accept the card.

"Another 10 Visa member banks have already indicated strong interest in joining the program," says Ivan Yim, Visa's country manager for Hong Kong. "Visa is also working with JETCO, Hong Kong's largest domestic ATM network, to allow the reloading of Visa Cash cards at their 1,000+ terminals," Yim adds. There is also a common interest in extending the program to Macau and southern China in the not-so-distant future."

Visa Cash programs currently run in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, New Zealand, Spain and, most recently, at the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. Pilots have been announced for four other countries, besides New York City in the U.S.

Visa is the most widely used card in Asia-Pacific with 90 million cards in circulation.

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