In an attempt to stem the tide of online fraud, Visa is trialling a virtual Visa card in Australia.
Known as the V-card, the `card' is actually a pre-paid online voucher that users buy with their debit or credit card (I wonder if they'll take MasterCard -Ed?).
Located at www.virtualvcard.com, the service allows Australian punters to buy a V-card with up to A$1000 (about 400 UK quidlets) loaded and can be used immediately online.
The slightly bad news is that each V-card costs A$5.50 (about £2.15) to buy, although newswire reports suggest that Visa is looking for partner banks to sell the virtual cards at price to be determined.
This means that you could see the V-cards being offered to premium bank or credit card account customers free of charge, although I don't doubt that Visa will be charging its member banks a modest fee for each card issued.
The card is activated by entering the account's reference number (provided at the time of purchase) through a secure Web site, which generates a one-off Visa account number, expiry date and three-digit security code.
These are sent to the customer via email or a text message.
Each V-card can then be used online as if it were a real Visa card, up to the limit of its pre-paid value. However, unlike real-world pre-paid cards, there's no top-up arrangement: once you hit the limit of the card, you need to buy a new one, which means you get a new card number, expiry date and security code....