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Tech Industry

Firms bring ATMs home

Bank of America and Visa announce a pilot program allowing employees to use online banking to transfer funds from accounts to smart cards.

    Out of cash? The ATM is no longer only down the block, around the corner, or across the mall.

    Instead, pull up a chair to your home PC, pop in a smart card, and you've got an ATM right in your own home.

    Bank of America and Visa today announced a joint pilot program that will allow BofA and Visa employees to use Bank of America's online banking service to transfer funds via the Internet from their checking accounts to Visa Cash stored-value smart cards. The pilot program is set to launch in August.

    The loaded card can then be used to make purchases either in brick-and-mortar stores or from Net merchants who have been participating in a separate Bank of America-Visa smart card program that was launched in May 1997.

    In addition to transferring cash in the comfort of their living rooms, participants also can scan recent activity on their Visa Cash cards.

    The several hundred Visa and BofA employees testing the program must first use their HomeBanking ID and pass code to log into the PC Load system through the Internet. The transaction requires a BofA portable smart card reader, which is inserted into a PC's diskette drive, just like a standard disk. Users insert their smart card into the reader, then make their transaction.

    There is no set time frame for how long the pilot will last or when the program will be extended to the general public.

    Such a system benefits both the consumer and financial institutions, said Bette Wasserman, vice president and smart card program manager for Bank of America.

    "The ability to use the Internet for loading stored-value chip cards will eliminate much of the initial need for expensive equipment upgrades in the physical world and help lead to increased acceptance of the cards in both online and physical environments," she said.

    Bank of America's Smart Card Group is working with Visa International and smart-card maker Spyrus to develop the Visa Cash Internet-load pilot.