based purchasing card program, designed for multinational companies with operations in Canada. The Visa card, to be launched by yearend, will be issued by Chase Bank Canada. Chase's U.S. purchasing card product was introduced last year. The New York bank plans to launch a travel and entertainment card program early next year. Frank Tufano, Chase's commercial card product manager, said Chase is among the largest Visa purchasing card issuers, behind First Bank System. Canada is the first step for the bank in a strategy of branching out to other countries, Mr. Tufano said. "Since our target market is multinational corporations, we foresee demands expanding beyond U.S. borders," he said. Many customers have achieved cost-cutting objectives in the United States through purchasing card programs, Mr. Tufano said, and they are interested in establishing those programs in foreign subsidiaries. "We see the opportunity to provide consistent programs across different geographic lines." Philip Skarston, vice president of business development for Golden, Colo.-based ProCard Inc., a company that markets commercial card software, said the "big money-center banks are interested in international issuance," but Visa and MasterCard rules forbid issuing cards across borders. Mr. Skarston said the rules protect member banks' consumer card businesses, but for commercial cards it creates artificial barriers, which impede programs that cater to multinational corporations. "The associations need to set up different rules for commercial card issuance and consumer cards," said Mr. Skarston. They have to understand commercial cards "are not the same animals." Mr. Tufano agreed. "Chase is working with Visa to try to modify those rules to meet the needs of the commercial market." While that will open the U.S. market to foreign competition, such as Sumito Bank of Japan's issuing purchasing cards to Japanese companies operating in the United States, Mr. Tufano said, "You can't complain about a level playing field." Robert Levaro, Visa's senior vice president of commercial cards, defended Visa's rule. "We haven't seen it as an impediment," he said, but he pointed out that challenges associated with cross-border issuance include providing customer service, billing in foreign currency, and producing statements in local languages. The association tries to be responsive to the needs of customers and Visa members, he added. Two approaches that work for members are forming alliances with foreign banks to issue cards across borders, and establishing affiliate banks in other countries, Mr. Levaro said.
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