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MasterCard, Banco Posta Plan Italian PayPass Pilot

The project, planned to take place in Milan and Rome, will be the first European pilot involving RFID-enabled prepaid payment cards.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 03, 2007Later this year, MasterCard and Banco Posta (the financial unit of Italy's postal service, Poste Italiane) will launch a pilot in the Italian cities of Milan and Rome, to test prepaid cards incorporating MasterCard's PayPass technology. Although consumers in the United States and other areas of Europe have taken part in pilots and deployments of PayPass-enabled credit cards, this will be the first European pilot involving RFID-enabled prepaid payment cards.

No specific date for the pilot has yet been announced, but Arne Pache, head of European solutions deployment for MasterCard's Global Advanced Payments Group, says it will begin in late 2007 and last for about eight months. During that time, prepaid PayPass cards will be made available for purchase at post offices in both cities.

MasterCard's Arne Pache
For the past several years, Italians have used prepaid cards to make small purchases of goods and services. The Postepay cards are sold at Banco Posta branches throughout the country, and elsewhere in Europe. Typically, Poste Italiane post offices and Banco Posta bank branches are colocated in a single facility, so consumers can accomplish their postal and banking transactions in the same visit.

The prepaid cards, accepted by merchants that accept credit cards, are equipped with a magnetic stripe encoded with the cardholder's permanent account number (PAN), used to access account payment data stored in the Postepay back-end system. Users can dispose of the mag-stripe prepaid card when the prepaid amount is exhausted, or they can reuse them by prepaying an additional amount at a Postamat ATM, the www.poste.it Web site or a Banco Posta branch.

As with PayPass-enabled credit cards, the prepaid version will come with an embedded passive 13.56 MHz RFID chip complying with ISO standard 14443. MasterCard has not yet revealed the vendors that will produce the chips or readers, though it has used Texas Instruments hardware in past projects.

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