Visa International said it has begun field tests of a technology to prevent credit card counterfeiting.

The technology, watermark magnetics, developed by Thorn Secure Science International, of England, is now being tested by Barclays Bank PLC and National Westminster Bank PLC in London.

In two months, tests will be expanded to New York, with banks that Visa declined to name.

Later this year, Visa will also commence field tests of a rival counterfeit prevention technology called Holomagnetics, developed by American Bank Note Holographics Inc. of Elmsford, N.Y., along with Kurz Co., of Furth, Germany, and Control Module Inc. of Enfield, Conn.

The plan is for 70,000 Visa cardholders to get cards equipped with one of the two technologies.

In early 1994, Visa expects to choose one of the two technologies for implementation on all bank cards by 1998.

MasterCard has similar implementation plans.

Watermark and Holomagnetics are intended to stop a form of credit card counterfeiting called skimming, in which counterfeiters copy data from the magnetic stripe of a card onto a fake card.

Visa officials hope this technology secures magnetic stripes for the rest of the decade.

Then, the card associations hope to start moving away from magnetic stripes by making smart cards.

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