Spain’s Banesto Pushes [email protected] Plus

Amidst growing competition for online
customers, the Banco Espaqol de Cridito, S.A. (Banesto) has spent all month launching
the market infrastructure for [email protected] Plus, “the
first virtual card you can touch.”

Hailed as the first effort of its kind, [email protected] Plus is a free, Internet-only plastic debit card that users can recharge at any of
the more than 10,000 4B network ATM machines. Any individual (such as a
parent) can recharge another’s card online, though only the cardbearer will
be able to spent the up-to-35,000 pesetas ($208) limit.

“The [email protected] Cash card can’t be used in the physical world … to use
[email protected] money, you have to use a [email protected] store,” said Julian
Inza, Banesto’s director of technological strategy. “And you can only spend
the amount already charged to the card.”

Currently about 20,000 Spanish clients have access to the cards, though
Banesto plans to distribute a million more in coming months.
Since unveiling [email protected] Plus earlier this month, the bank has added
more than fifty online stores, and plans to add close to 2000 by year’s
end.

The growing number of Spanish online establishments accepting this payment
option are listed at www.escaparate.com. Future plans
include applying the card to long distance phone calls.

Inza said Banesto decided against extending the card’s purchasing power to
offline buys mainly as a way to avoid combining the risks of both the
virtual and physical commerce.

“This security option is especially important for parents,” he added.
“I’m especially trustworthy of Internet transactions, but what I am
reluctant to do is to give my VISA number to my son.”

Moreover, since online stores never actually see the the card numbers used
in purchases, they are permitted “more relaxed security standards.” Banesto
touts card use as “free and anonymous.”

Banesto is a pioneer in Spanish online banking, launching the first
e-commerce transaction in 1995. In 1997, it was the first Spanish bank to
realize such a transaction using SET technology, though slow SET growth
has, in Spanish e-commerce circles, come to mean “Still Expecting
Transactions.”

In a further push toward hurdling the Catch-22 barriers to e-commerce,
Banesto last week joined the Net developer Onirica to give out free open
source Cibertienda software. This
bet on Linux technology includes a free “shopping cart” application and
offers an online forum for e-commerce developers.

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