Planet Payment Inc. says it hopes the global financial downturn will increase demand for its multicurrency payment service.

"Present economic conditions, as bad as they are, are to some extent helpful, because merchants are looking to expand beyond their borders, and that's what we do," said Philip D. Beck, the Long Beach, N.Y., company's chairman and chief executive.

Planet Payment announced Tuesday that Dillard's Inc. of Little Rock is offering the Pay in Your Currency service at its department stores in 29 states.

"We see a huge opportunity in retail generally and specifically in the United States today," Mr. Beck said in an interview.

Planet Payment offers its processing system to retailers and online merchants in conjunction with merchant processors such as Fifth Third Processing Solutions, First Data Corp., Global Payments Inc., Moneris Solutions Inc., and Total System Services Inc.

Most of its business is in the Asia-Pacific region and North America, Mr. Beck said.

Dillard's is offering the multicurrency payment option through its acquirer, Fifth Third Processing, a unit of Fifth Third Bancorp of Cincinnati, Planet Payment said.

When a customer presents a card with a Visa Inc. or MasterCard Inc. brand at checkout, the system automatically determines whether it was issued abroad, and gives customers the option of paying in dollars or in the issuer's home currency, Mr. Beck said. "We can present pricing to customers in a way that makes them more comfortable."

Planet Payment announced its alliance with Fifth Third in November 2003. At the time, the companies said the "dynamic currency conversion" process would enable merchants' foreign customers to learn the final cost of a transaction immediately, instead of being forced to wait until they receive a billing statement at the end of the month.

"Our products provide transparency and visibility to the end user," Mr. Beck said. "There's a lot of good competition in the payments industry today. We are an agent of change."