Visa International announced the launch of the "feature reloadable" smart card, which allows Hong Kong bank customers to add stored-value cash capability to their automated teller machine cards.

The enhancement came eight months after the August 1996 introduction of Prime Visa Cash, a card that cannot be replenished after the value stored in its chip is spent.

The card-loading and -unloading service was initially available at 100 ATMs of the two participating banks, Bank of China Group and Standard Chartered Bank. Later, cardholders will be able to make use of the feature at any ATM displaying the Visa Cash logo, regardless of where they have their accounts.

Visa also announced that several Hong Kong retail merchants, including Haagen-Dazs and Mobil Oil, had joined more than 1,000 others accepting Visa Cash.

As of mid-April, about 500,000 Visa Cash transactions worth an aggregate $1.94 million had taken place, the card association said.

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