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Analyst: USB credit card is safe

Korea's latest credit card supports USB and contactless connectivity. Gartner analyst believes the device will catch on among Asian users.
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Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor on

A new credit card that supports both USB and contactless connection may prove popular among Asian consumers, who like devices that can plug into PCs, according to an analyst.

Shinhan Bank in late-December 2007 launched a credit card in the form of a USB stick. The Korean bank tied up with credit card company Visa International to produce the device, which also supports contactless transactions.

Contactless transactions are made possible through a built-in NFC chip, which allows payment at retail outlets carrying compatible readers. Similar services launched in Singapore include the SingTel-NETS and StarHub-EZ-Link tie-ups, both of which launched NFC payments via mobile handsets in September 2007.

Apart from payment, the Shinhan device also allows online consumers to automatically fills in Web transaction forms with their credit card details when they shop and make payments via the Internet.

But is the USB device secure? Gartner analyst, Avivah Litan, thinks so.

"On the surface, it appears it will give users more security," said Litan in an e-mail interview.

Web connections are likely to be safe if established via a secure connection between the USB device and the online merchant, she said, adding that functioning as a contactless device, the Shinhan device "will likely use new security features" currently available in NFC devices that track and record the card's usage.

Litan noted that while there is the risk of the device physically being stolen, "that risk exists with all [payment] cards today".

Furthermore, the Gartner analyst expects the device to be a success. "Our research finds that consumers prefer devices that plug into PCs, [compared to] standalone devices", because it prevents the device from being misplaced if it is perpetually plugged in, Litan explained.

"I expect we will be seeing more of [such cards] in other Asian countries in the next two years," she said.

When contacted, Singapore-based OCBC Bank told ZDNet Asia it currently has no plans to offer a similar device.

Wong Ting Mei, head of credit cards at OCBC, said: "At this point in time, we have no plans to issue a similar credit card. Nevertheless, we will continue to assess our customers' needs and may revisit this possibility in the future."

Visa did not respond at press time.

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