Sat, Nov 24, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Group promotes stored-value cards

PURCHASING TOOL The consumer foundation went to bat for stored-value cards yesterday, saying that the cards will be safer than cash and will discourage debt

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumer Foundation (消費者基金會) promoted stored-value cards (儲值卡) yesterday as a convenient and safe way to manage money.

"Pre-paid electronic cash cards can effectively prevent people from spending more than they can afford," said attorney Joann Su (蘇錦霞), a member of the foundation's business committee.

"Since consumers can't charge more than they have put [on their] stored-value cards, debt issues will be diminished," Su said.

Consumer credit card use has boomed in Taiwan, registering a 19.2-fold increase over the last decade from NT$37.4 billion (US$1.09 billion) at the end of 1991 to NT$719.8 billion by the end of last year, according to statistics made available by the Ministry of Finance.

Based on those numbers, the time may be ripe to introduce the stored-value cards.

"Over the last few months, people have been alarmed by the rampant circulation of fake bills and counterfeit credit cards. We need a more secure tool for making [financial] transactions," said James Lu (陸建偉), head of the stored-value card advisory committee under the ministry's Bureau of Monetary Affairs.

According to Lu, the government outlined the regulations on stored-value card usage early last month. The regulations stipulate that banks can issue the cards at a maximum value of NT$10,000 each.

A stored-value card is similar to a pre-paid bus or MRT card. The cardholder purchases the card for a set value and then uses it to make purchases.

But with computer chips embedded in stored-value cards, the cash value is digitally recorded and consumers can add value to their cards at any time.

The cards will not be limited to any one product or service and are designed for small transactions.

"Regardless of whether you're buying a newspaper in the convenience store, getting a drink from a vending machine or paying for a taxi, you can use the stored-value card and don't have to worry if you have the exact change," Elvin Huang (黃永耀), president of Mondex Taiwan Inc, said.

Mondex, a subsidiary of Master Card International, oversees the stored-value card business under the group.

Huang said the company has aligned with six domestic banks -- Bank SinoPac (華信銀行), Cathay United Bank (匯通銀行), Far Eastern International Bank (遠東銀行), Taipei Bank (台北銀行), Fubon Commercial Bank (富邦銀行), and Cosmos Bank (萬泰銀行) -- and is scheduled to begin issuing the cards early next year.

The firm is upbeat on its chances for success.

"We expect to attract more than 800,000 cardholders by the end of next year and more than 10,000 retailers such as restaurants, convenience stores and shops will register to accept the payment method as well," Huang said.

But the real key to the cards is convenience, Lu said.

"The selling point of the stored-value card is convenience. Service providers should try their best to enable cardholders to use their cards wherever they want," Lu said.

The cards will begin to be made available next year.

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