Acculynk Inc. says its Internet PIN debit service may capture a much larger share of online transactions than it originally forecast.
The Atlanta company announced in November that it would test PaySecure with four electronic funds transfer networks, including Discover Financial Services' Pulse.
At the time, Acculynk said it expected to convert 25% of online signature debit transactions to PIN debit.
But in a survey conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research last month, 80% of participants said they would use PaySecure if a trusted merchant presented it as a checkout option.
Javelin, of Pleasanton, Calif., surveyed 500 debit card users who made online purchases in the past year. Participants used PaySecure for a mock online purchase and then answered questions about the experience. Acculynk and Pulse commissioned the poll.
"What this survey is basically saying is, in that group of folks targeted, that the conversion rate is closer to 80%," said Ashish Bahl, Acculynk's chief executive officer.
PaySecure enables consumers to enter their PIN with a mouse on a virtual PIN pad that appears on the computer screen during checkout.
Sixty-five percent of participants said they would feel safer buying on the Internet using PaySecure, and 48% said they would buy more often on the Internet if they could pay using the service.
"That 65% is a very strong number from our vantage point versus what a lot of people could have thought" in the aftermath of recent security breaches involving Heartland Payment Systems Inc. and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC's RBS Worldpay, Bahl said.
Industry analysts, however, have questioned the security of Acculynk's offering.
In February, Avivah Litan, a vice president at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said she was against any software- or Web-based PIN-entry service.
"I would highly recommend [to any consumer] not entering their PIN anywhere on the Internet unless it was hardware-based," she said.
But Bahl said the networks involved with the pilot tests have little concern about the security of PaySecure.
"For all the credible third parties that understand exactly what we do in detail, they are absolutely fine with our security, and that's their fiduciary responsibility," he said.
Bruce Cundiff, the director of payments research and consulting at Javelin, said the bigger issue might be the balance of security versus usability for any Internet PIN debit service.
"You can have the most secure solution in the world, but if you don't have any transactions and it's not easy for a customer to use, then it's worthless," he said.
At the moment, PaySecure has usability in its favor. Ninety-three percent of the survey participants found PaySecure easy to use and 86% said they liked that the service does not require additional passwords, logins or one-time-use numbers to complete a transaction.
Pulse, which announced last month that it would test PaySecure, also was encouraged with the survey results. The Houston network said merchant interest in the service was easiest to determine because PIN transactions carry lower interchange rates and lower fraud risk than card-not-present transactions. But Pulse said it was unsure how consumers would respond.
"We're trying to understand the consumer response," Judith McGuire, Pulse's senior vice president of product management, said last month.
"Do they understand it? Are they comfortable with it?"
In an e-mail last week, McGuire wrote that Pulse believes that "Internet-based PIN debit has tremendous potential value for consumers, as well as for merchants and debit card issuers."
Javelin's Cundiff said that "a substantial subset of consumers" are "making the behavior change from credit cards to other methods of payment" and that they would benefit from another "pay-now" method.
Danielle Dulcos, Acculynk's director of marketing, said the March survey was the first of several research projects the company is planning for PaySecure.
"We're thinking of doing a larger survey of 1,000 consumers and spreading out the demographics," Dulcos said.
Fiserv Inc.'s Accel/Exchange and Metavante Corp.'s NYCE Payments Network LLC are the other two networks testing PaySecure.
Bahl said a fourth network will be announced soon.
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Corrected April 16, 2009 at 6:41PM: An earlier version of this story understated the company's original forecast for the percentage of online signature debit transactions it would convert to PIN debit. The forecast was 25%. An editing error was to blame.