Citibank N.A. India has launched the country's first e-card for customers wanting to make purchases via the Internet. At a press conference held to announce the launch, Mr. Nanoo Pamnani, CEO, Citibank India, said, "Citibank pioneered the use of credit cards in India and now, in the new Internet economy, we are delighted to once again be the first to introduce a virtual card, with the Citibank e-Card."
The Citibank e-Card comes without any physical plastic and can be used only on the Internet. The virtual card has been launched in association with MasterCard and is part of CitiDirect Internet Banking's offerings. The card can therefore be used for any Internet-based purchase anywhere that MasterCard is used. According to Mr. P.S. Jayakumar, director sales & distribution, Citibank India, " Since this card rides on the MasterCard backbone, it has a reach to over 280,000 locations worldwide."
The card, which is part of Citicorp's global initiative, has already been launched in the US and Australia, before its launch in India.
Here, the subscription fee for an e-Card is just Rs. 250 per annum. While card customers can choose their own credit limit, the maximum limit has been fixed by the bank at Rs. 12,000. "While this may sound low," according to Mr Jayakumar, "the customer can transfer his payment on the e-card to his regular credit card. In that sense, this is a revolving credit line. Besides, The credit limit is a balance on the risk side. Of course, if a customer wants a higher credit limit, we would give it."
Responding to questions on security, Mr Jayakumar said, "The system is protected with a 128-bit encryption. In addition, it has gone through 14 days of intensive tests, running the full gamut on firewall, encryption, password break-ins. This has been done through an ethical
hacking process for which we had appointed a US-based company. Once a quarter, we will keep re-testing." Besides, the account can be accessed with the account/credit card number and HPIN (Home Banking Personal Identification Number) code together.
Mr. Jayakumar, however, clarified that "a secure, encrypted payment gateway would be necessary for security. For this to happen, not only must our end of the system be secure, but the other end -- sites we tie up with -- must also be secure. We're ensuring that." For the e-Card, Citibank has tied up with Rediff, Fabmart, Alliance Capital, and some brokerage firms. The bank is looking forward to the time when electronic signatures are allowed, which then enhances the level of security.
There are a number of features and benefits that the e-Card offers. These include Best Price on the Net; if any other site than the one you purchase from offers a lower price for the same item within 30 days, the difference in price will be refunded by Citibank. The purchase of electrical and electronic goods carries an extended warranty for six months. For a period of 90 days from the date of purchase, protection is offered against damage or loss due to theft or fire.
The e-Card's account statement will be available online and an additional e-Card for a family member above 18 years is also being offered at an additional fee of Rs 150 per annum. Existing Citibank card members can log on with their Internet password (HPIN) and apply for an e-Card. Non-members will have to fill in an online application form on www.citibank.com/india
Mr Jayakumar is hopeful that the e-Card's pricing will attract non-Citi customers. "And over the next two years, we estimate that 30-to-35 per cent of our customer base will have e-cards. Currently, Citibank has 1.3 million cards among all its products."