Bank One Arizona has joined the handful of institutions printing customers' photographs on credit cards, and it is raising the ante by putting the photos on debit cards as well.
The program will begin Sept. 7. 17 months after citibank became the first major bank card issuer to adopt the technique.
Fraud Seen Deterred
Citibank claims the photographs have deterred credit card fraud. Bank One Arizona is also emphasizing the anticrime and personal-identification aspects, though it is clearly seeking a marketing and public relations payoff as well.
The initiative is likely to spread to other units of ohio-based Banc One Corp., which have issued a total of about eight million credit cards.
Bank One Arizona has more than a million credit card and checking customers eligible for the optional photo program.
The bank is putting both the Customer's Picture and a digitized signature on the front of each card. The customer's actual signature will still be written on the back of the card.
Using technology from Polaroid Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., and DataCard Corp. of Minneapolis, the bank will keep the photos and signatures in computer storage so that the cards can be reissued automatically.
Endorsed as ID
The Arizona bank said its Photo card has been endorsed by the prosecutor's office of Mariacopa County (Phoenix) as a substitute for drivers licenses when retail merchants verify checks.
Besides Bank One Arizona and Citibank, at least three other banks have come out with similar products.
In June, the lead bank of Citicorp moved the photos from the back to the front of its cards, making it easier for merchants to verify a customer's identity. Citibank also added the digitized signature on the front.
No Appointment Necessary
Unlike Citibank, which requires customers to mail their photographs, Bank One Arizona will take pictures during business hours in all its 205 branch offices. No appointments are necessary. Two photos will be produced. one of which will remain at the branch.
Virlea Mays, vice president and project director for Bank One Arizona, said that with both the signature and photo on the front, "our cards will actually be cobranded with our customers."
Bank One Arizona will promote the program with advertising and a sweepstakes. A customer who comes in for the picture-taking is automatically entered, and can win prizes ranging from Polaroid cameras to a Hollywood vacation.
Bankers say photo cards give customers a greater sense of security. But some experts have raised questions about how effective they really are. "Photo cards are a sales gimmick. That Is the number one reason banks offer them," said Donald D. Drummond, executive director of the International Association of Credit Card Investigators.
Merchants' Cooperation Vital
The card's effectiveness depends on how conscientious a merchant is about matching the photo with the cardholder.
Some store clerks do not even verify signatures carefully, so the photo is just another way to encourage scrutiny.
Citibank's advertising claim, "If you lose 'it, no one can use it," rings hollow if merchants don't cooperate.
John W. Westman, president of Bank One Arizona, said the personalization makes the cards "safer and easier."
"This is our opportunity to demonstrate how serious we are when we say we'll do whatever it takes to meet our customers' needs," Mr. Westman added.
|The Ultimate in Convenience'
"Our customers are getting the protection and recognition they want and deserve. and merchants are "receiving immediate proof of identification," said Ms. Mays, the project director. "Secondly, with this new technology, we are able to provide our cardholders the ultimate in convenience and worldwide cash availability."
The Polaroid-DataCard system, which Citibank and others also use, integrates the photo and signature into the card production process. Once the photos are scanned and converted to digital form on magnetic tape, DataCard's 9000 Series system produces 350 cards an hour.