American Express Co. said it has changed the name of its Travelers Cheque Group to Stored Value Group, to reflect a broadening of its ambitions in prepaid services.
Carl Lehmann remains the president of the group. He said he wants to expand its focus from paper-based products to compete with the growing number of payment-services organizations that are exploring ways to replace cash.
In addition to travelers checks and gift checks, the group will include the recently established prepaid phone-card business, American Express Telecom Inc. That division is offering the FirstClass Phonecard, a joint product with the U.S. Postal Service.
Special Teams Inc., a company acquired last May that provides identification and stored value card systems for colleges and universities, will also be a Stored Value Group component.
"We have a very strong core competency originating with travelers checks, which was expanded with gift checks," said company spokesman Toby Usnik.
Though he said the company remains heavily committed to the paper travelers check, which had $24.9 billion in sales volume for 1994, he said the new products would build on the experience American Express has accumulated in stored-value payments.
The new products will keep the company competitive with banks and other issuers of advanced-payment options such as smart cards. While it hasn't made any smart-card announcements, Mr. Usnik said, "when customers want (a new type of payment) we're ready to provide it, but we're more interested in meeting today's needs for our customers."
American Express recently teamed up with MasterCard International to demonstrate technology for interoperable smart-card terminals, which can read cards from different issuers and card manufacturers.
Mr. Usnik said American Express would not rule out other payment devices for travelers, such as a plastic card with value stored on a magnetic stripe, similar to Visa U.S.A.'s Travel Money. But "at this time, we find our customers love our paper-based checks."