December 5, 1996 2:00 PM ET

Mondex USA launched to develop electronic cash system
By Margaret Kane

  A group of seven financial institutions today formed a company to support and implement the Mondex electronic cash payment system in the United States.

Mondex USA Services Limited Liability Co. will be jointly owned by a subsidiary of AT&T; Corp., Chase Manhattan Bank, Dean Witter Discover, First Chicago NBD, MasterCard International, Michigan National Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.

The Mondex payment system, which allows customers to transfer cash onto smart cards, also allows them to transfer cash between cards without going through a central processing system. Consumers can load cash onto the cards at ATMs or from home using their PCs and a phone. Smart cards can be used at stores and over the Internet to make payments.

MasterCard, Wells Fargo and AT&T; are also owners of London-based Mondex International Ltd., formed by 17 financial institutions in July. Last month, MasterCard agreed to buy 51 percent of that company, which has already begun testing the Mondex electronic cash system.

Each of the owners will recruit other financial institutions as licensees that can offer Mondex cards to customers and merchants.

After its purchase of Mondex International, MasterCard said it would use the Mondex standard for all future smart card developments. In the United States, Mondex cards will be available through 13,000 financial institutions, to the 43 million cardholders of Dean Witter's Discover card, and to the 18 million cardholders of the AT&T; Universal Card.

Wells Fargo has been testing the Mondex system in San Francisco among employees and merchants since August 1995. Several trials of the system have been held in Europe as well, most notably one that involved 13,000 people in Swindon, England. In Hong Kong, 20,000 people have applied for the cards since being launched in October.

More trials are planned in Canada and the United States in 1997.

Additional information about Mondex USA is available at

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