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More than 20 alternative online-payment services sprang into existence in the past few years, but with the exception of PayPal Inc., consumer awareness and use of the services remains weak, new survey data suggest. According to a CardBeat market-research report by Westbury, N.Y.-based Auriemma Consulting Group, 78% of 500 consumers Auriemma surveyed nationally in March said they were familiar with PayPal, 20% knew of Bill Me Later, 10% were familiar with Google Checkout and 8% were familiar with Amazon.com's e-check. Some 18% of respondents said they were unfamiliar with any of the most-common alternative-payment services. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported having a PayPal account, while 4% said they have a Bill Me Later account and 3% said they have an account with Google Checkout. About 25% of survey respondents said they were "comfortable" providing their bank-account information to Internet-based payment companies such as PayPal, while 20% said they were comfortable giving that information to credit card issuers and 15% were comfortable giving the information to merchants, respectively. Credit card issuers should not become complacent about the threat posed by alternative online-payment services despite their relatively low awareness and use among consumers, Megan Bramlette, CardBeat managing editor, tells CardLine. "Many of the emerging alternative online-payment services harness the automated clearinghouse system, cutting credit card issuers out of the loop," she says. "Card issuers should be keeping an eye on opportunities to offer their own online-payment services or team up with alternative-payment providers to make sure they don't lose ground as awareness and usage of these services slowly grows."

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