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SAN FRANCISCO – Visa USA had begun taking steps to try to fight its way in to the utility payments market, a space in which consumers are quickly moving away from using checks but where many consumers have not yet settled on another favored payment method. Visa has also been making the case that the utility firms have been treating Visa Checkcard transactions as though cardholders had used their personal identification number to validate their transactions. Visa Checkcards can be used like a credit card and like a debit card, however using them as a credit card both costs the business accepting them more money and earns the issuer more interchange. “Visa’s efforts to grow acceptance will reduce operating expenses for utilities, bolster financial institutions’ card volume, and provide consumers with another convenient place to use a payment card,” says Diana Knox, senior vice president for Visa. “The utilities segment represents a $177 billion opportunity for electronic payments. Growing bill payments on payment cards is a tremendous business opportunity for everyone in the payment channel, and we expect that our efforts to open the utilities space will drive acceptance and card usage.” The two prong effort includes both cutting the interchange rate that utilities will pay for routing Visa Checkcard transactions as credit card transactions and pointing out how the use of cards can save utilities money over all. Visa pointed out that payments made with cards post 72% faster than those made by check, delinquency rates on accounts paid by card are 20% less than on those paid by check, 5% fewer payments need exception processing when made by cards and customers who use cards make 25% fewer customer service calls.

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