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Visa Extends Prepaid Platform to China

Visa International Tuesday said it has extended its International Travel Card to China, targeting as many as 10 million outbound Chinese travelers.

The International Travel Card can be purchased using cash, checks, or a credit account and are accepted at more than 29 million physical locations around the world, including more than 800,000 ATMs.

Visa's prepaid platform includes guidelines, product standards, acceptance mark strategy, and technology infrastructure that provide Visa issuers flexibility to develop applications with the product features they require. Visa prepaid cards may be non-personalized, have an expiration date, and can exist in the physical or virtual world.

Just what is the prepaid platform? Visa defines prepaid as the ability to bring electronic payment to situations that traditionally involve cash, checks or paper vouchers. Visa seeks to extend this capability to nine distinct categories: travel; gift-giving; consumer rebates and promotions; emergency needs; employee wages and expenses; domestic and cross-border money transfers; government benefits disbursements; money management for young adults; and electronic payments in rural locations and closed venues.

The prepaid platform is Visa's extension of its u-commerce, or universal platform for payment enablement. Some research firms applaud e-billing initiatives by credit card firms such as Visa, which have been the most aggressive in developing e-billing Web sites and developing customer service functionality around them.

Online billing is growing exponentially, according to Gartner, which estimated recently that 22 percent of the U.S. population will be using such applications by the end of 2002, up from 16 percent in 2001.

The research firm said the number of consumers using online account management and e-billing applications will have grown to 45 percent of the U.S. adult population.

"The overwhelming success has been in the credit card industry where Web-based applications offered by card issuers take the concept of monthly bill presentment to the next level - online account management," said Avivah Litan vice president and research director for Gartner. "Web-based applications enable timely and interactive communication of customer account data and, therefore, have much more value than old paper-based processes and batch delivery of static monthly bills."

Gartner analysts said consumers prefer viewing and paying their e-bills directly at biller Web sites rather than registering for a consolidated model at their bank's (or other service provider's) Web site, where they can only receive two or three of their major bills.