Visa And Mastercard: A War Over Paperless Plastic?

The credit-card giants are fighting for the accounts of home-computer owners with ever more sophisticated ways to manage money electronically. Visa International Inc. is offering a service called IntelliCharge, which provides cardholders with an electronic statement. The data are sent by modem to PCs running the popular Quicken or QuickBooks financial software from Intuit Inc. This way, consumers can keep computerized records and easily create financial reports without having to key in all the transactions.

MasterCard International Inc.'s effort is more ambitious. It has joined with CheckFree Corp.--a Waterville (Ohio) company that provides electronic check-writing capabilities to about 100,000 PC owners--to offer a new service called MasterBanking. The service allows consumers to do such tasks as bill paying and account transfers via a PC or touch-tone phone. To get things going, both MasterCard and Visa must first sign up individual banks to set prices for these services and offer them directly to consumers. Neither has announced any takers yet.

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