Viewpoints

Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints

PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Dec 22, 2011

ABC’s Nightline Goes Inside Visa’s “Fortress of Security”

Last night, ABC’s Nightline aired a segment highlighting Visa’s role in the global economy and the “technology behind the swipe,” featuring Visa’s President, John Partridge and Mike Dreyer, our Global Head of Technology.  Millions of people each day swipe their cards to shop, particularly in this busy holiday season, but few appreciate the technology and investment that allows it to happen while keeping your personal data safe. 

That’s why we were excited to work with Nightline on the story to look more closely at the state- of-the-art technology that enables our network to be secure, reliable and scalable – and importantly, manage the high peak time transaction volumes driven by the season. Every day, VisaNet connects up to 1.9 billion Visa accounts, millions of acceptance locations, 1.8 million ATMs and 15,500 financial institutions around the world, so making sure every one of those connections is safe and secure is incredibly important to us.  We even gave Nightline access to our control room in our data center, where they could see the 50 years of experience and investments we apply to ensure Visa account holders can swipe their cards with absolute peace of mind. 

Our data center employees took the Nightline crew on a full tour of the facility, talking through the elements that keep our network going, including our server redundancy, heating, cooling and power capabilities, and our external building security. These elements work together without fail every day, even during the holiday rush to buy last minute gifts!

We hope you were able to catch the piece, but if not, you can watch it on the ABC News site here.

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Posted by: Erica Harvill, Visa Corporate Relations on December 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Dec 8, 2011

Consumers’ Association of Canada Study Brings the Consumer Voice to the Table

When it comes to making purchases, a fundamental consumer expectation is that the price advertised will be the price paid at checkout. Penalizing the consumer through added fees or “surcharges” is a practice Visa strongly opposes and is viewed as harmful for unfairly shifting the cost of electronic payments onto consumers.

Recently, the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC) released study results on Canadian attitudes towards choice and surcharging at the point of sale. The study affirmed Visa’s strong, pro-consumer sentiments – consumers do not want to be penalized for using their preferred method of payment. In fact, 84% of Canadians oppose surcharging when they choose to pay by credit card and 90% believe they should have the right to choose their preferred payment method be it cash, debit or credit.

The Canadian Competition Bureau is attempting to eliminate Visa’s “no-surcharging and honour all cards” protections for consumers. This is an action that Visa vehemently contests.

Visa’s ‘no surcharging’ policy was created specifically to protect consumers from merchants who seek to impose checkout fees, punishing consumers who choose the convenience, security and reliability of Visa over other methods of payment. 90% of those surveyed by the CAC were unaware of the Competition Bureau initiative to allow merchants to reject a particular form of payment. Visa’s “honour all cards” protection was implemented to prevent merchants from reaching into consumers’ wallets and dictating which payment products they can use. The policy requires that any merchant who elects to accept Visa products for payment must accept all Visa-branded cards. Canadian merchants are able to choose to accept only credit or debit domestically issued cards without having to accept both according to the Voluntary Code of Conduct for the Debit and Credit Industry. Removing this pro-consumer policy will lead to consumer confusion and eliminate consumer choice at the point-of-sale.

Evidence indicates that in those few countries that permit surcharging today, including Australia and the United Kingdom, many merchants have been penalizing their customers with excessive surcharges that far exceed the cost of card acceptance. Surcharges in Australia are now as high as 10 per cent; well above the one to three percent merchants pay their banks for card acceptance. In fact, the Australian situation has become so contentious, that the Payments System Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia is now undertaking a review of their surcharge standards.

Visa remains committed to empowering consumers through a choice of products and resources that allow them to conveniently and responsibly manage their finances. As such, it’s critical that Canadian policymakers review the findings of the CAC study to understand why there will be resounding opposition to any attempts to impose additional checkout fees or dictating which payments products a consumer can use.

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Posted by: Melissa Cassar, Visa Corporate Relations, Canada on December 8, 2011 at 7:00 am

Dec 7, 2011

Creating Opportunities for Mexico’s Underserved

If seeing is believing, then my recent trip to Mexico re-opened my eyes to the real benefits of digital currency, particularly in the lives of low-income families around the world. During a whirlwind four-day trip, we captured the experience of Angélica Cruz Romero, who receives her government benefits on the Oportunidades Visa card, as part of the Currency of Progress video series.

Angélica lives in a modest home on the outskirts of San Juan del Rio, a city of 120,000 people in the state of Querétaro. She is one of millions of formerly unbanked or under-banked Mexican consumers who receives social benefits on a prepaid debit card that keeps her money safe and can be used anywhere Visa is accepted.

As part of the visit, we also interviewed Bernardo González, general associate director of Bansefi, the government-owned issuer of the Visa card. In the coming months, Bansefi aims to include all 6.5 million beneficiaries in the Visa debit card program as part of its long-term goal to reduce poverty by bringing more Mexicans into the formal financial system.  “This is absolute[ly] the door to financial inclusion,” he said.

For Angélica, receiving funds electronically gives her peace-of-mind, flexibility and the promise of a better life for her family. I’m very optimistic because I’m taking my children on the right path,” she said. “And this program has helped me a lot because I am heading in the right direction where I wasn’t before.”

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Posted by: Richard Martin, Visa Corporate Relations on December 7, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Dec 5, 2011

A Uniquely Rwandan Financial Literacy Partnership

Outside on the streets of Kigali, the constant bleats from motorbike horns provide the distinctly African soundtrack. Only steps away, but oblivious to the commotion, are 20 Rwandan college students from the School of Finance and Banking who are sitting inside a customized ICT Bus helping shape the future of financial literacy in this “Land of a thousand hills.”

As part of Visa’s announcement with the Government of Rwanda this week in Rwanda, we also began the process of working collaboratively with the government to bring our financial literacy expertise to the country.

And while we are experts in delivering innovative personal finance education, only Rwandans have that unique perspective on what will resonate most with their fellow countrymen.

Rwandans are optimistic and understandably proud of their densely-packed nation and the college students take seriously their responsibility of helping us create a customized version of the educational video game “Financial Football” for their country.

Which is what brings these students to this mobile computer lab, equipped with 20 of the latest laptops. Each has “Financial Football” up on their screen and is putting the free game through its paces. Some are testing in English, others in Kinyarwanda, but all have the same goal: ensuring the final version of the fast-paced, money management game will engage and educate their peers.

Government officials, including the Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda and the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, joined Visa in coming to see the students in action. They saw firsthand what will be needed to create relevant personal finance questions, which serve as the core of the game. Players answer multiple-choice questions correctly to advance down the field for a chance to score a goal, all while learning key concepts about saving, responsible spending and budgeting.

The process will take several months, but in the end, Rwandans will have taken another step in shaping their own future and making this country a shining star in the heart of Africa.

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Posted by: Jason Alderman, Visa Corporate Relations on December 5, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Dec 4, 2011

Delivering Electronic Financial Services in Africa

Greetings from Rwanda.

I am delighted to be posting this blog from Kigali, Rwanda where, along-side Ambassador Claver Gatete, Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, we just announced a new public-private partnership between Visa and the Government of Rwanda to electronify financial services.

Why have we entered into this partnership and what is it all about?

At Visa, we believe that everyone has a right to access basic financial and payment services.  And over the past six months, we have been working closely with the Government of Rwanda to forge a partnership to accelerate the delivery of such services to the Rwandan population.

Today, we are proud to share an overview of our collective labors: a Charter of Collaboration aimed at developing localized solutions to extend access to financial services to local and international consumers throughout the country.

The Charter of Collaboration encompasses 12 initiatives structured around three key areas identified by the Government of Rwanda and Visa as vital to the development of a fully-inclusive financial system:

Laying the Foundations for Electronic Payments – We have committed to working together to develop the basic infrastructure requirements which will enable country-wide use of electronic payments.  This means facilitating the widespread issuance and acceptance of payment cards and the localization of clearing and settlement services.

Promoting Electronic Payments Innovation –Secondly, we have agreed to work to ensure that Rwanda can take advantage of modern technologies to reach Rwandans who are under-served by traditional payments infrastructure.  I expect mobile payments to be a big part of this solution and we’ll talk more about that in the coming months.

Capacity Building –Finally, building a robust electronic payment infrastructure requires more than products and technology.  To ensure long-term economic success, we have committed to delivering a coordinated and sustained program of capacity building.  This will comprise a range of initiatives designed to increase financial literacy and provide industry training and experience for local Rwandans.

You can see the detail of the Charter itself by following this link.

Public-private partnership is a cornerstone of Rwanda’s approach to development.  It is also a key component of Visa’s global growth strategy as well.  To me, this Charter has all the makings of a classic win-win and we’ll be certain to keep you informed of progress

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Posted by: Elizabeth Buse, Visa Group President, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa on December 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Dec 2, 2011

The Next Frontier for Financial Education

When I arrived in South Africa for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s conference on financial education I was struck by the contrasts in this fascinating country.

But even more intriguing than the economic, social and topographical diversity was a striking commonality. From the densely packed urban townships, to the opulent Cape Town shopping malls, to the rural farm communities, there are mobile phone towers. They spring up everywhere, even in places without running water or reliable electricity.

I was startled to find that 3G network access was available every place I went, including, at one a point, on a bone-rattling, dusty road miles from any buildings. Being in South Africa it became clear to me the need to also deliver financial education by this ubiquitous tool.

One of the biggest challenges for those of us working to improve financial literacy is how to have this vital information connect with consumers. It has to be relevant, timely and accessible. And it’s ‘accessible’ that is the moving target.

Ten years ago web-based content was often seen as the best way to reach the end user. While traditional computers accessing the Internet are still a powerful tool, mobile phones have become the screen of choice today for many audiences including everyone I met in South Africa.

I am convinced that in places like Africa, the next opportunity in financial literacy is to take the fundamentals of personal finance – budgeting, saving, responsible spending, wise use of credit and access to the banking system – and deliver them on a mobile device at the right time, to the right audience. This won’t be accomplished overnight or by one organization. Working collectively, though, I am convinced we can make it happen.

A mobile phone tower perched on a thatched roof in rural South Africa.

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Posted by: Jason Alderman, Visa Corporate Relations on December 2, 2011 at 9:48 am