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Visa tests SMS transaction alerts

Visa Inc. and eight financial institutions have agreed to to test the delivery of real-time notification alerts on the payments franchise's accounts.

The pilot program will have about 2,000 participants testing the delivery of SMS notifications on Visa accounts. Visa partnered with PNC Bank, SunTrust Bank, U.S. Bank, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank Financial Group and Vancity in Canada.

"We're excited that we're working with eight of the leading financial institutions in North America on these trials of email and SMS transaction notifications," said Pam Zuercher, head of global product innovation for Visa, San Francisco.

"It's a compelling service, because we're able to deliver the alert to cardholders in a matter of seconds, typically before the customer even leaves the store where they made the purchase," she said.

Participants will receive notification alerts from Visa through email or SMS delivered directly to their mobile devices.

The service is based on Visa's transaction authorization system and its ability to analyze and conduct risk score transactions "in-flight." It lets Visa cardholders set thresholds that will trigger a transaction alert.

Visa cardholders will get alerted each time theu make a cash withdrawal , spend cross-border and exceed an amount that has been pre-selected by the cardholder.

"The goal is to help consumers better manage their financial accounts and financial information," Ms. Zuercher said. "By leveraging two delivery channels, email and text messaging, there's a general baseline compatibility."

Through the alert received via email or SMS text, cardholders can verify transaction details.

If the transaction appears to be irregular, cardholders can immediately contact their bank to stop further transactions on the card.

The service is designed to help cardholders keep closer track of their transactions and spending levels as they go about their daily routine.

According to a recent Javelin Strategy & Research report, consumers view timely alerts as a valuable resource to help detect fraud.

Visa already delivers real-time transaction risk scores to financial institutions. The franchise began testing mobile notifications in 2007, beginning with an internal employee pilot.

Mobile alerts are part of a suite of services that are supported by the Visa Mobile Platform.

This effort comes as consumers globally are relying on their mobile phones to do far more than just handle calls.

A recent Pew Research Center report found that more than 80 percent of consumers ages 18-49 use their mobile devices to send text messages, take pictures and accessing the Internet.

Worldwide, Visa's Mobile Platform is supporting trials of mobile payments made at the point of sale using contactless Visa payWave technology.

The platform also supports remote payments via text message or the Internet.

In addition to account notification, Visa's value-added mobile services include the delivery of offers, coupons and rewards directly to a consumer's mobile device.

"Mobile offers, including location-based services, are powered by our technology that lets us track consumers' purchasing activity," Ms. Zuercher said. "We can reward consumers based on their behavior, give them a statement credit when a certain action is achieved.

"It's an effective way to drive commercialization," she said.

Visa's mobile money transfer lets cardholders use their mobile device to electronically transfer money to family and friends around the world directly from their Visa accounts.

Visa has announced mobile trials and commercial rollouts nationwide and in Brazil, Britain, Canada, Germany, India, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan.

Transaction notification via SMS fits into Visa's broader mobile strategy.

"At Visa, we are prioritizing the delivery of our services into the mobile channel and looking to extend the offerings we have and reaching into the mobile channel to extend convenience," Ms. Zuercher said.

There are 3.3 billion mobile devices globally. So it's natural for Visa to take advantage of its assets and the global cardholder-base that it has.

"We believe that it's natural to extend payments to mobile devices, as well as value-added services such as the timely delivery of information," she said. "We have a vision for the mobile device to become a universally accepted instrument to deliver payments and payment related services."