First Data Trumpets Payment Gateway

Credit card-processing giant First Data Corp. is looking to beef up its presence behind the e-commerce "buy" button.

Credit card-processing giant First Data Corp. is looking to beef up its presence behind the e-commerce "buy" button. As part of its plan, First Data announced today a stand-alone payment gateway to compete with mainstays like CyberCash and Signio.

Dubbed SurePay, the gateway software has been packaged for months with an iMall/First Data bundle called MerchantStuff.com, which also includes Web site creation, hosting, a merchant account and online marketing. Now available as a stand-alone product, SurePay will also include support for multiple payment types--including credit cards, checks and cash (First Data owns Western Union).

Its payment-gateway push could be a threat to companies like CyberCash. Nevertheless, First Data still views the payment pioneer as a strategic partner. According to First Data officials, the SurePay software was developed jointly by First Data and iMall, which was purchased in July by Excite@Home.

"We want to process every electronic transaction from the point of payment to settlement," says John Duncan, executive VP of First Data's Internet commerce group.

These are bold words, but First Data has plenty of leverage. The payment mammoth supports some two-million merchants worldwide, as well as 1,400 credit-card issuers. Its online presence has been growing as well. According to First Data officials, the number of real time, e-commerce merchants it supports has climbed from 13,000 in late 1998 to 52,000 today. The payment player has also emerged as a leader in acquiring merchant accounts for prospective e-businesses.

In related news, First Data is also launching an internal e-commerce division to handle projects like the payment gateway. The new division is being steered by Duncan, who previously ran the First Data's merchant-services division.

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