Viewpoints

Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints

PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Jun 20, 2013

Prepaid

Aid Disbursement: Extending Relief & Bringing People Into the Formal Financial System

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 42.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee from their homes due to conflict, natural disasters or persecution.  Much of these are from the geography I oversee; Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa. As the world comes together on June 20 to recognize World Refugee Day, the occasion serves to raise awareness about the hardships these displaced persons endure and reminds us of the importance of extending relief to them.

While great strides have been made in delivering much-needed assistance to displaced persons since the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees entered into force in 1954, relief and assistance to refugees still largely come in the form of food and supplies.  While these forms of aid provide valuable assistance that can make a world of difference, they can also be expensive to transport, inefficient and ineffective.  For example, food and other supplies may be prone to spoilage or theft, and may go unused and wasted if donated supplies do not meet the needs of the local environment.  In places prone to corruption, relief in the form of cash may never reach those in need.

Today, evolutions in technology are enabling new industries, such as electronic payment systems, to play a vital and complementary role to the work that aid agencies, governments and civil groups do to disburse supplies and assistance.

Electronic payment network operators, such as Visa, have been working alongside governments, NGOs and others to improve and streamline the delivery of aid through electronic payment products. This not only makes the delivery of aid instantaneous and secure, but also extends access to basic financial services to those in need.  As such products can be linked to a bank account at a licensed financial institution, this is often the first opportunity for many people to be included in the formal financial system.


 

For instance, in Pakistan, the National Identity Agency of Pakistan, United Bank Limited and Visa teamed up to distribute badly needed aid to families fleeing their homes after fighting broke out in the country’s Northwest Frontier Province.  The partners distributed aid on Visa prepaid cards, each loaded with 25,000 rupees (US$300), and installed terminals in local businesses to accept payment cards and connect them to the global payments network. These terminals helped displaced persons use their preloaded prepaid cards to buy much-needed food, medicine and other essential supplies from local merchants, and gave these businesses the opportunity to participate in the global economy. As a result of the program, more than 270,000 new bank accounts were created, offering otherwise excluded citizens access to secure and reliable financial services.

In July 2011, flooding devastated the Philippine island of Mindanao, the second largest island in the country. More than 120,000 families and 7,000 acres of crops were affected. Visa, together with Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) member Action Against Hunger/ACF International and Philippine Veterans Bank, delivered a voucher program using Visa prepaid cards to affected families. The beneficiaries used the cards to purchase food and supplies at supermarkets in the area. The program rolled out in eight days, and two monthly fund transfers were made to the recipients via the prepaid cards, helping to automate the disbursement process and alleviate the burden on the families.  

As we come together on World Refugee Day to reflect upon the importance of extending relief to people displaced from their homes due to conflict, natural disasters or persecution, we are encouraged by innovative solutions that can help bring greater transparency and efficiency to aid distribution.  These have the power to provide displaced persons with the dignity and flexibility to obtain the supplies and assistance relevant to their needs, and stimulate the local economy.  As we survey the realm of possibilities, Visa, for one, is excited about the opportunities ahead to better serve those in need.

 

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Posted by: Erin Steinhauer, Corporate Relations, APCEMA on June 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

Jun 6, 2013

Postcards from the Underbanked Financial Services Forum

As both a sponsor and participant at the Center for Financial Services Innovation (@CFSInnovation) “Unbanked Financial Services Forum,” Visa was among the thought leaders from the public and private sector that gathered this week in Miami to address the challenges and opportunities related to financial inclusion in the United States.

According to recent FDIC statistics, while 72% of the United States population is “banked,” more than 34 million Americans are labeled as being “unbanked” or “underbanked.”  Many of the panels at the forum focused on debunking myths and stereotypes and providing awareness and financial literacy to a population that spent $78 billion on high-cost “alternative” financial services like payday loans in 2011.

Visa’s Head of Consumer Prepaid Products, Lisa McFarland, participated on the panel “Mobile Remote Deposit Capture: The Present and the Future” alongside executives from Ingo (formerly Chexar) and Banking Up to take a focused look at how mobile remote deposit capture (mRDC) can be a potential game changer in meeting the needs of the underserved.  “Consumers are motivated by access, and with mRDC we can address a critical pain point for consumers—convenient, cost-effective and instant access to funds,” shared Visa’s McFarland.

In her keynote address, CFSI President and CEO Jennifer Tescher (@JenTescher) drew an interesting parallel between changes in the health care industry to similar shifts in the financial services industry. In recent years, she noted that doctors and others in the medical industry have moved from treating sickness to a focus on promoting wellness. According to Tescher, as Americans plan for an uncertain future by managing their money and spending well, consumer financial “health” should be a priority for financial services-oriented businesses.

Visa wrapped up our participation at the Forum by co-hosting with CFSI a thought-leader roundtable moderated by Professor Michael Collins, Faculty Director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a member of the Advisory Board for the U.S. Financial Diaries project. The discussion focused on how recent technology developments may help further elevate prepaid products into the financial mainstream while also serving as an effective tool for underbanked consumers.

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Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on June 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Nov 14, 2012

NFL Fans: Show Your Support With New Team Visa Prepaid Cards!

We’re in the heat of the National Football League (NFL) season in the U.S. and Visa has created another opportunity for fans to get closer to the game and show that they bleed red – or blue, or purple – for their favorite team. As an NFL sponsor since 1995, Visa recognizes the love NFL fans have for their favorite team and is supporting that passion by offering select NFL team-branded, reloadable prepaid cards at more than 350 Walmart stores around the country.

Team Visa Prepaid Cards, issued by GE Capital Retail Bank and managed by Green Dot Corporation, sport the logos of eight Visa-sponsored NFL teams: the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers. The cards are exclusive to each team’s market and are available now at Walmart stores within 75 miles of the home stadium of each participating team.

Visa prepaid cards deliver the convenience and security of digital payments, while making it easier to budget money on a day to day basis. So whether fans want to stock up on food and drink for the gameday tailgate or buy a new flat screen television, Team Visa Prepaid Cards from Walmart allow cardholders to make a clear statement about their fandom with every purchase.

To learn more about Visa prepaid cards, please visit www.visa.com/prepaid.

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Posted by: Hyung Choi, Visa Head of U.S. Prepaid Products on November 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Aug 2, 2012

Postcards From London: Visa Prepaid Cures Late Night Hunger

Visa London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic themed carsd

Tonight I found myself in the office craving a late night snack. After all, a chocolate honeycomb Crunchie counts as dinner, right?

And working at Visa, the vending machine (like increasingly more vending machines I encounter) takes contactless payments. While I had the option to pay with my mobile device, I decided to use the Visa Prepaid card we were given upon arrival in London. And what’s more fun than a Visa Prepaid card? One that features Wenlock, one of the two official mascots representing the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In a matter of seconds, I avoided having to fish around for coins or find correct change and the 65p had been deducted from my Visa Prepaid card. Quick, easy and hunger-satisfying. Something tells me that this card is going to see more locations around London.

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Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on August 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Jul 23, 2012

The Future of Payments at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

It’s an exciting time to be a Worldwide Sponsor of the 2012 Olympic Games. Not only did we launch Go World—Visa’s Olympic -themed integrated marketing campaign in more than 70 countries around the world—we’re giving the Games a modern makeover and transforming the way Visa-sponsored athletes, trialists, and Visa staff pay at thousands of merchants in London and at the Olympic Park.

Here’s what Olympic-goers can expect to see:

  • Visa Mobile Payments: As part of Visa’s collaboration with Samsung, athletes and trialists will be equipped with Samsung’s GALAXY S III. The phone will be powered by an Olympic- branded version of Visa payWave—Visa’s mobile payments application—allowing participants in our showcase to make purchases by simply selecting the Visa icon on the Samsung device and holding the phone to a contactless payment terminal to pay.
  • Speed by with contactless payments: With around 37 million Visa payWave-enabled credit, debit and prepaid cards in circulation across Europe, contactless cards enable visitors to the Games to breeze through London and the Olympic grounds with “wave and pay” purchases at thousands of retailers.
  • Retailers are game: By Games time, more than 140,000 payment terminals throughout the U.K. will accept Visa PayWave-enabled cards and phones, including 5,000 London taxis and 3,000 point-of-sale (POS) locations at Olympic venues.
  • Race ahead with prepaid cards: Visa prepaid cards will be on sale throughout the U.K. and will enable visitors to London to experience the convenience and security of Visa payments, allowing them to make purchases everywhere Visa is accepted and spend less time in concession lines and more time enjoying the Games.

Reshaping the buying experience and simplifying payments at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is just the beginning of what we see as a transformative time ahead.

To see some of what Olympics-goers will experience firsthand, we were recently featured on NBC KTVU’s TechNow pre-Olympics segment:

Let the Games (and future of payments) begin!

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Posted by: Elvira Swanson, Visa Corporate Relations on July 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

Jun 15, 2012

Financial Inclusion: Spotlight on the Underserved in the U.S.

This week, leading private sector, government and civil society representatives are gathering at the Center for Financial Services Innovation’s (CFSI) 7th Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum to discuss the latest strategies to reduce the number of the financially underserved in the U.S.  As part of our global commitment to advance financial inclusion, Visa is pleased to sponsor the event and contribute to the best practices and payments expertise being shared through speaking on two panels: “Putting the Consumer First: Designing, Delivering, and Identifying Quality in Prepaid” and “Connecting with the Consumer: Branding Strategies for building Trust with the Underbanked Consumer.”

Around the world, an estimated 2.5 billion adults—primarily in developing countries—lack access to formal financial services. However, financial exclusion is not a challenge absent from even some of the world’s most advanced economies. Surprising to some, one in four U.S. households has little or no access to basic financial services.[1] Without this access, the financially underserved are typically reliant on a cash-and-carry lifestyle, without a safe or convenient way to save money, pay their bills or get paid.

Visa is committed to being a part of the financial inclusion solution. At the core of our commitment is our work with our clients to use our products, services and network to improve the lives of the underserved through access to electronic payments. In the U.S., we believe our reloadable prepaid cards provide an important channel for the underserved to gain access. These cards may be purchased by an individual, provided by a government agency for social aid or offered by an employer as a payroll option. Prepaid cards — often an individual’s first point of access to formal inclusion —  offer a safe, reliable and convenient way for people to pay, get paid, store and manage their money.

Beyond our products and network, Visa complements our inclusion commitment by engaging in partnerships with governments, non-governmental organizations and multi-lateral organizations to collaborate on strategies and initiatives that address many of the challenges to greater inclusion, such as our involvement in the programs of CFSI. We also deliver extensive financial literacy programs throughout the U.S., as we believe that having the knowledge to understand and use a financial tool responsibly is as important as having access to the product itself. Visa’s financial literacy programs, like Practical Money Skills for Life, help U.S. consumers become more financially savvy by providing free educational resources, including personal finance articles, games and lesson plans.

Financial inclusion in the U.S. is a national challenge not to be overlooked. As leaders this week and throughout the year discuss new strategies and innovation designed to close the financial inclusion gap, Visa remains committed to working with our partners to develop solutions to this important social and economic issue.

 


[1] Press Release: New FDIC Study Shows One in Four U.S. Households Currently Unbanked or Underbanked http://www.fdic.gov/news/news/press/2009/pr09216.html

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Posted by: Brian Triplett, Head of Commercial & North America Prepaid, Visa on June 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

Jan 12, 2012

It’s Time to Start Using Those Visa Gift Cards

Now that the presents have been opened and the holidays are behind us, those who unwrapped a Visa Gift card are beginning to log in online and speed through checkout lines as they purchase those perfect gifts.  Whether it’s used at any of the millions of brick and mortar locations that accept Visa Debit cards, online, or by phone – shoppers are experiencing the convenience and flexibility the Visa Gift card offers to shop where they want for what they want.

How will people use their Visa Gift cards?

According to the recent Visa Gift Giving Survey, people will spend their Visa Gift card in the following ways:

61%  Indulging in something they might not normally be able to buy/afford

58%  Buying “life essentials” such as groceries or paying bills

41%  Using it to help purchase gifts for other people

Follow these simple tips when using a Visa Gift card:

  • Activate and Read: The gift card is activated upon purchase, so the recipient can begin using the card immediately. Recipients should be sure to read the issuer’s terms and conditions of their Visa Gift card, which are included in the original packaging, or can be found on the issuer’s web site.
  • Use It: The card was given as a gift, and it’s important to use it early to enjoy the full benefits of the gift.  If the purchase price exceeds the value of the gift card, another form of payment can be provided in addition to the gift card.  Tip: Recipients can send a thank you note to the gift giver letting them know what was purchased with the card.
  • When Paying – Know the Balance and Choose “Credit:” Know the value remaining on the Visa Gift card before shopping, either by calling the card issuer or checking the balance online. When paying in person, card holders should select the “credit” option as the payment method when checking out.

For more tips and information on how to use a Visa Gift card – visit www.visa.com/giftcardguide.

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Posted by: Lucas Mast, Visa Corporate Relations on January 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Jan 5, 2012

Intuit Launches the GoPayment Prepaid Visa Card

We continue to see new ways prepaid can be a platform for innovation in payments.  A great example: Intuit’s recent launch of the GoPayment Prepaid Visa Card.   

Those who use Intuit’s GoPayment mobile acceptance app and reader can now link their GoPayment account to a Visa prepaid card, conveniently separating the funds collected through GoPayment from other finances. The card can then be used to make payments online or in-store, as well as to withdraw cash at ATMs anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

TechCrunch said the GoPayment Prepaid Visa Card “makes GoPayment especially friendly for fledgling entrepreneurs or businesses who want to accept payments but don’t have a business bank account.”

GoPayment users can choose where they’d like to accept payments, whether to an existing business or personal account, or to the GoPayment Prepaid Visa Card.

Products like this show how the flexibility of the Visa prepaid platform allows our prepaid partners to create tailored products to meet the evolving payments landscape.

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Posted by: Erika White, Visa Corporate Relations on January 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm

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

Nov 14, 2011

Paper or Plastic? State Governments Choose Plastic

As the year comes to a close, so too does the era of paper unemployment checks in the District of Columbia.  The DC Department of Employment Services recently announced that all new recipients of unemployment insurance benefits will share in the advantages that come with receiving automatic payments through either Visa prepaid debit cards or direct deposit. 

 According to the DC Department of Employee Services, claimants who select Visa prepaid debit cards will be able to:

  • Access fee-free funds at in-network ATMs
  • Make fee-free purchases everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted
  • Pay bills using their prepaid debit card
  • Access fee-free cash at Visa member banks
  • Access fee-free cash at participating retailers
  • Manage their account online 24/7
  • Access their account via toll-free interactive voice response systems 24/7

Government agencies using Visa Prepaid cards instead of checks for disbursements can lower costs and increase operational efficiencies while providing consumers with more convenient and secure access to funds.  Approximately 39 states are using or are in the process of implementing Visa prepaid card programs to disburse child support, unemployment, TANF and other benefits through more than 80 programs. 

In fact, today, approximately 30 of 38 state unemployment insurance card programs and 32 of 49 state child support programs are delivered by Visa1

Visa programs are helping states including California, Maine, South Carolina, Connecticut, New Jersey and Ohio save millions of dollars in administrative costs associated with paper based programs – including lost or stolen check replacements, bank processing and handling fees, check fraud and check printing costs – while providing greater reliability for the delivery of benefits.

Visa prepaid cards offer a secure, convenient and cost-effective alternative to checks and cash, providing consumers a better way to make everyday purchases, pay bills, and receive deposits.  Visa prepaid cards can be especially valuable for those consumers without checking accounts or traditional banking relationships, helping these consumers move from an inconvenient, unsafe, and potentially costly cash-and-carry lifestyle to more convenient and secure access to funds.

 By receiving benefits on a Visa prepaid card, benefit recipients can enjoy:

  • Money Management and Control Prepaid cards offer consumers greater access to and control over their finances than checks or cash, by enabling cardholders to only spend funds loaded on the card.  Cardholders can track their spending online for improved budgeting.
  • Convenience – Cardholders enjoy immediate access to their funds through direct deposit and can eliminate check-cashing fees.  Disbursement recipients can use their Visa prepaid cards to easily make purchases anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted – in-store, online, or by phone – from paying bills, to making travel reservations, and buying gas at the pump. 
  • Security – Like all Visa products, Visa prepaid cards are protected by Visa’s Zero Liability policy2, which means consumers pay nothing for unauthorized purchases made with their card. 

 Visa works with governments all over the world to help get benefits to people faster and with less disruption while helping save taxpayer money by eliminating the costs associated with checks.

1Data reflects public information available through individual state agency websites.

2Visa’s Zero Liability policy covers U.S.–issued cards only and does not apply to ATM transactions, PIN transactions not processed by Visa, or certain commercial card transactions. Cardholder must notify issuer promptly of any unauthorized use. Consult issuer for additional details or click here.

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Posted by: Hyung Choi, Visa Head of U.S. Prepaid Products on November 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm