Although online shopping is on the rise, many customers draw the line at buying, afraid of releasing their credit card numbers into cyberspace.
"Once you put credit card details on the Internet, it's impossible to control where they go," said Fiona Shanley, vice president of marketing for Orbiscom, a New York software firm. If a merchant's Web site is hacked, customers' credit card numbers and personal information can be stolen from it, she said.
So Orbiscom developed a "disposable" credit card, an account number a consumer can assign to a single electronic transaction or retailer, eliminating the need to disclose credit card information over the Internet.
MBNA is the first U.S. bank to roll out the service, Shanley said, although the technology is already in use in Europe. MBNA has licensed Orbiscom's software and branded it ShopSafe, said Kevin Wren, director of Internet initiatives at Wilmington, Del.-based MBNA.
MBNA, the nation's largest monoline card issuer, chose Orbiscom because its product is well developed and the company's management seasoned by international experience, Wren said.
In October, MBNA was testing ShopSafe internally, with an expected rollout to the public at presstime, according to Ray Sheriden, head of U.S. operations at Orbiscom. "The primary focus is to address barriers to convenient and secure e-commerce for the consumer."
"It's the right thing to do to give customers this choice," MBNA's Wren said, explaining the decision to offer ShopSafe to its 45 million cardholders.
When a customer wishes to make a payment, software from MBNA's Web site is downloaded to the customer's PC, allowing him or her to access an icon that brings up a ShopSafe screen. ShopSafe lets the customer choose between creating a single-use number or an ongoing account with that merchant, plus set a spending limit for that site. The customer never enters an actual credit-card number, but instead verifies his or her identity with a user name and password. Orbiscom's back-end technology matches the temporary account number with the permanent one.
ShopSafe offers a number of advantages, Wren said. The transaction- or merchant-specific number is useless if it's hacked from a merchant site. The solution doesn't require a consumer to attach a piece of machinery to their PC, making it easy to use. Nor does it require consumers to open additional credit accounts.