Visa New Zealand has applied to enter the Visa Cash program, the Visa Asia-Pacific regional headquarters reported.

The membership would enable all of New Zealand's six major banks to offer stored value and related programs under the Visa brand. They plan to launch at least one product this year.

As in Australia, the New Zealand banks have expressed interest in Visa smart cards as well as the competing Mondex brand, which is controlled by MasterCard International.

"A pilot on Australia's Gold Coast demonstrated the convenience, versatility, and acceptance of the Visa Cash product for all parties-banks, merchants, and consumers," said Daniel Jeffares, Visa country manager for New Zealand. "National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and ANZ Bank were involved in the Australian pilot and also have operations in New Zealand, giving direct experience that can be translated to the New Zealand environment."

Meanwhile Visa and Westpac won the bidding in Australia to supply a chip card payment and loyalty-rewards program for Darling Harbour, a tourist area that will be a central venue for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Visa Cash cards are already being used in SegaWorld and other Darling Harbour sites.

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