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Visa turns to txt

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Credit card provider Visa is to start trials of an SMS notification service, alerting you by text message every time your card is used, to reduce fraud and help money management.

The idea of sending a text every time a card is used isn't very new - First Direct has been offering such a service to UK punters for several years - but Visa is a much bigger brand, which endorses a wide variety of cards issued by banks and other organisations, including the recently-announced effort from O2.

The experience of receiving a text message within moments of withdrawing cash, or using a card over the internet, is reassuring, but the cost of sending those messages must be borne by the provider - Visa in this case. The provider is hoping to reduce that overhead by alerting some users via e-mail instead of text messages, or using a native smartphone application to alert the user - also cheaper than sending an SMS.

That leads to a fairly simple calculation comparing the cost of the text messages - minus the proportion of users expected to opt for e-mail or native applications - with the amount of fraud they are expected to prevent, a comparison which now tips in favour of mobile alerts.

That just leaves the obvious reluctance of the issuing companies to share their customers' contact details with Visa, which explains why Visa is so keen to emphasise that it's "working closely with member banks through which it will make the technology available to consumers".

The initial trials will run over the summer, and only involve Visa staff, but assuming no significant technical barriers are encountered we should all be able to get text notifications of Visa-backed transactions fairly shortly. ®

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