The program requires a portable smart card reader that can be attached to the PC. Users log onto a secure Web banking site using their bank ID and password, then insert the card into the reader. They can then transfer funds onto the card from checking accounts.
The cards, which resemble credit cards but contain an embedded chip, can be used at merchants who are participating in the pilot program
While the cards have taken off in Europe, American usage is still in testing stages. Should this prove successful, the backing of BofA and Visa could spur smart card use here.
"The ATM card was a different way of getting cash. Now the ATM is on your machine at home, but it's a different kind of cash, and the question becomes, "where is the cash accepted?" he said. "The utility is dependent on how well Bank of America and Visa are doing in making sure merchants accept the stored value card. If I can download the money and then use it to buy groceries, go to the newsstand, buy a book at a book and ride the bus, than this is a convenience for me.
The program will be tested by Bank of America and Visa employees who use BofA's Internet banking service.