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"Exploring Electronic Commerce with Jerry Dwyer"


The results of the trial of smart cards in the Upper West Side of Manhattan suggest that smart cards have a long way to go before their use in the United States. Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, MasterCard and Visa participated in the trial. About 96,000 people acquired the cards, 600 merchants signed up, but consumers used the cards to spend only about one or two million dollars from October 1997 through October 1998. Average spending per card was about $10 or $20 per card, and the cards provided by Citibank gave consumers $5 to sign up for its card. Evidently merchants also were paid to participate. These are not auspicious results. Other evidence suggests that the inability to use the cards over a wider area was part of the reason for the lack of use. How can smart cards be made generally acceptable without banks taking an enormous risk by providing cards and card readers to everyone in the United States at once? One solution is to focus on uses in which the cards are likely to have the highest value, for example eateries in a metroplitan area and provide the cards to people who frequent those establishments.

Gerald P. Dwyer

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