Bank of Nova Scotia said it has issued more than 16,000 Visa Cash cards in the Ontario city of Barrie since launching a chip card trial there in October.

That is more than three times the three-month goal of 5,000, and it gave the Toronto-based bank and the Visa Canada association a chance to crow at the competing Mondex organization.

Mondex Canada's pioneering system in Guelph, Ontario, hit 10,000 cards in November-a level it did not project reaching until February, a year after the system began operations.

"No Canadian trial of any other brand of reloadable electronic cash card has achieved a similar rate" of acceptance, Bank of Nova Scotia's press release said.

It also said Barrie has seen "one of the fastest take-up rates of any of the 55 Visa Cash trials in 17 countries."

With a population of 90,000, Barrie, which is north of Toronto, is about the same size as Guelph, to the west. Each program also claims some 500 participating merchants.

Guelph attracted international attention as the first full-scale, citywide pilot of electronic cash in North America. But it was conceived when only Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce had signed on to Mondex, and before MasterCard International acquired 51% control of the global banking consortium.

In 1997, all the major Canadian banks-Scotiabank included-and associations representing credit unions and the Caisses Desjardins of Quebec became members of Mondex. MasterCard and Mondex were victorious in a country where Visa dominates the credit card business, but the banks bought into Mondex's momentum and a desire to make a "national decision."

A credit union recently joined the two big banks in Guelph, but that pilot will pale in comparison to the national rollout that the Mondex group is planning.

Though it could be months before the national rollout takes hold, it could also dwarf what is left of Visa Cash-currently 35,000 cards in Barrie, Toronto, and Vancouver.

But Scotiabank stayed loyal to Visa, went ahead with the test in Barrie, and likes what has transpired.

"We are absolutely elated with the results we have achieved so far," said Robert Lounsbury, the bank's senior vice president of card products and marketing. "We are very pleased with the response of the public, especially the response at Georgian College," where 10% of food service volume has moved to Visa Cash.

The trial is scheduled to run through late 1998.

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