Newcastle Building Society is to be the issuing bank for a pioneering study that will see an initial 5,000 smart pre-payment cards replace cash and cheques for financial transactions.
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The £4.4bn lender will work with MasterCard and Carta, the two-year-old Canadian firm formed by Mondex and Mint, which will handle customer acquisition, card personalisation and transaction processing.
Geoff Crellin, Carta head of strategic partnerships, said it will approach firms that deal in relatively small quantities of cash per transaction, such as mobile phone operators and health care insurers, to take up the scheme which it will roll out later this year. Other potential partners include the Post Office and retailers such as Tesco that have multiple product lines, including banking.
"Cardholders could use their cards to top up their mobile phones, and insurers could transfer payments to healthcare professionals as well as the insured following a claim for treatment," he said. Employers could pay salaries direct to the card, and the card holder could set up standing orders, he said.
The smartcard Newcastle will issue uses the Multos chip with Chip & Pin. Different data caches permit different applications to be loaded onto the card and keeps separate the respective data for each.
The card can work as an Europay, MasterCard or Visa contactless card for fast low value purchases such as parking tickets, as well as authenticate higher value transactions. It can also work with a Nokia mobile phone for internet-based transactions.
The Multos Consortium supplies cards for banking, travel, identity and security applications. They include the Hong Kong and Saudi Arabian national identity cards, the Taiwanese MoneyCard for travel and shopping, and the Brazilian Banrisul Bank's Cartao Multiplos payment and internet authorisation card, where transactions are digitally signed by the ICP-Brasil, the national public key encryption standards body.