Visa International has redesigned its travelers checks to combat counterfeiting.
The San Francisco-based card association also introduced dual-signature checks, a product its competitor American Express has offered since 1992.
The redesign is intended "to combat the highly sophisticated color copiers and color scanners currently being used by criminals to reproduce valuable documents," said Thomas J. Gallagher, vice president at Visa.
"While Visa Travelers Cheque counterfeit losses over the years have been very modest, both in financial terms and by industry standards, we have taken this opportunity to incorporate advanced security features to stay ahead of counterfeiters," he added.
The new checks feature three anti-counterfeit features. The first is an enlarged, Visa Dove watermark, which appears in a clear area on the left side of the check. The watermark, which can be seen when the check is held up to a light, cannot be reproduced on any type of copier or scanner.
Second, a metallic silver, holographic band, which appears to the right of the Visa logo on the check, uses a traffic light color pattern as well as the word "secure." This band cannot be reproduced by copying.
Third, Visa will use a special printing technique, which may cause the word "Void" to appear when the check is photocopied.
Visa said the dual-signature checks are a response to consumer demand for more flexibility and convenience. The checks allow two travelers to share checks, while allowing either traveler to countersign the checks independently.
"We have created merchant awareness and education materials in eight or 10 languages, which address the dual-signature check," said Mr. Gallagher. Visa does not anticipate encountering merchant refusal to accept the checks, as had happened early in rollout of American Express Checks For Two.
Visa will continue to offer single-signature checks, which are available in 14 currencies. The dual-signature checks will be available in only three currencies: American dollars, Canadian dollars, and British pounds.
In 1994, worldwide sales of Visa travelers checks reached $12.5 billion. Visa said its checks can be purchased from more than 75,000 sales locations around the world.