While bankers have been waiting for mobile phones that can contain multiple account credentials, U.S. Bancorp has put the capabilities on a card.
The Minneapolis company announced last week that it has begun testing a Visa Inc.-branded card that has both magnetic-stripe and contactless payment features and can act as an identification card and an access-control card to unlock doors.
Dominic Venturo, the chief innovation officer at U.S. Bank Retail Payment Solutions, said the three-month trial is taking place in one of the company's Minneapolis office buildings.
Offering a single card with multiple uses could be attractive in campus environments, such as colleges, where the cards could grant students access to dormitories, laboratories and cafeterias, he said; the technology could also be useful in corporate, health care or government complexes.
During the test, employees will be able to load funds on to a prepaid card account that they can use at vending machines. The cards can also be used at doors and other access control points.
Venturo said that in a commercial deployment, the payment credentials could be linked to a conventional U.S. Bank deposit account.
There is no specific number of employees who will participate in the test, he said. "We've made it available to an entire floor. As they want to enroll, they can."
The card could be used to access a computer workstation, though that would require a contactless reader at the computer, Venturo said. An employer also could include biometric authentication, using readers that can scan thumbprints, for instance. "We don't have those features turned on in our pilot, but they are a part of the chip set's capabilities."
U.S. Bancorp is issuing standard contactless debit cards to several groups, including customers of Downey Financial Corp. and PFF Bancorp Inc., a pair of failed California institutions that were acquired in November, Venturo said.
He acknowledged that scores of trials have shown wireless phones can hold credentials for multiple payment accounts. "That is an important vision of the future."
Still, the mobile handset falls short as an identification badge at a business or government office where employees might be required to carry a photo ID, he said. "But a card-based implementation might be perfectly appropriate for them. That's why we play in both spaces."