JCB Co. Ltd., Japan’s largest credit card company, is continuing its slow, but consistent expansion into the Pacific Rim area and the rest of Asia. A year ago, it had begun its initial forays into Taiwan and Korea. Today, JCB cards are starting to turn up in Thailand, Singapore, and China.
“We now have significant card issuance in Taiwan and Korea,” said Julie Krueger, Vice President of Emerging Technologies for JCBUSA.
JCB is issuing magnetic stripe and EMV smart cards in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China and some other Asian countries. “We’re expanding into Malaysia and the Philippines,” she added, “either with the EMV or the mag stripe.” Banks in those countries are issuing the JCB cards. For example, Taiwan Cooperative Bank has launched the JCB card there.
And in Thailand, the country’s largest commercial bank, Bangkok Bank Public Company Limited last year signed a licensing agreement with JCB for merchant acquiring and servicing, including sales processing. Bangkok Bank has a 40% share of the credit card market in Thailand, and with this agreement the bank?s approximately 50,000 new merchants are now accepting the JCB credit card.
However, JCB’s core credit card business, including its contactless cards, is still Japan-centric.
“Our contactless card activity is limited to Japan with several different flavors,” said Ms. Krueger. These include the JCB-issued Offica (the office card), the View Suica (the Japan Railway-issued contactless transit card with a JCB mag stripe credit card capability), and the NTT DoCoMo Smart Phone (JCB credit card functionality embedded in a cell phone).”
JCB’s Offica solution provides multi-functionality on a contactless card
“We use the Offica to provide contactless payment in a campus setting or a closed-loop system,” she said. “This is a prepaid, host-based scheme which means it?s similar to the Mobil Speedpass concept where an ID is passed back to a host system and the host takes care of settlement and payment. This contactless payment method is used in JCB’s Offica card in Japan and Taiwan.”
JCB, when it moved into its new 16-story office building in Tokyo last year, equipped its staff with its Offica DualPlus corporate smart card. According to JCB, this Offica solution offers corporations a diverse menu of functions in a single contactless smart card.
Offica, like most of the contactless projects in Japan, said Ms. Krueger, is built around Sony?s FeliCa contactless smart card technology. It is a DualPlus card, which combines both FeliCa?s contactless interface and EMV contact interface capability in a single IC chip.
The Offica card can control office access and provide cashless purchasing at company cafeterias or other facilities. An advantage over conventional cards is the post-payment capability linked to an employee?s JCB credit card. This eliminates the need for administering cash to load value onto the card, said Ms. Krueger.
View Suica combines transit fare payment with international credit card functionality
The View Suica JCB Card issued by the East Japan Railway Company, offers customers JCB credit card functionality and combines the Suica contactless IC prepaid card for paying transport fares, the View credit card for purchasing and cash advances at JR East outlets and affiliated merchants, and the international acceptance of the JCB brand credit card.
“Japanese Rail issues the multi-function card with the JCB mag stripe used as credit and the Japanese Rail contactless payment used for transit applications,” explained Ms. Krueger.
The View Suica Card is accepted at 462 JR East stations in the greater Tokyo area and nine Tokyo monorail stations accessing the Haneda International Airport.
“The Suica project is doing quite well,” said Ms. Krueger. “There are now 6.9 million card holders using Suica and they are planning to start expanding this technology for payment at in-house retail shops.” The JCB component of the project began last November and already 30,000 Suica/JCB cards are in use.”
Mobile Offica combines contactless and mobile phone technology
A new project that got under way late last year involves JCB?s Offica card and a cell phone company. The trial project, scheduled to continue until July, is called Mobile Offica. A contactless chip and mobile phone solution offers corporations cashless payment and office access control functions through an NTT DoCoMo mobile handset. According to JCB, this marks the first time that a credit card payment service has been made available for mobile phones with a contactless chip in Japan.
Built around Sony?s FeliCa chip, Mobile Offica, like its parent, provides several functions including office access control, employee attendance tracking, network authentication, and a cashless purchasing function.
Other Mobile Offica advantages over conventional plastic card systems, according to JCB, are that employees can monitor outstanding balances and view a detailed history of transactions on their mobile phone displays with “JCB Office Purchase Inquiry,” a downloadable Java-based application, without having to use a separate card reader. JCB is also examining the possibility of adding a mobile on-line function that would allow users to request an increase in credit limit.
Outside of Japan and the Pacific Rim, JCB?s presence remains limited. In many areas, “JCB?s primary role is to sign up merchants to accept the JCB card from our Japanese card members,” said Ms. Krueger. “Forty five of the 50 million JCB cards are issued in Japan, and the majority of the remaining five million cards are primarily issued out of Asia Pacific countries. JCB has no plans on issuing any cards in the U.S.–contactless or contact (EMV).”
JCB did sponsor a Hawaii EMV smart card pilot in 2002-03, “to determine merchant awareness and education requirements,” said Ms. Krueger. The cards were already issued to JCB cardholders in Japan and other Asian countries. No additional cards were issued under the pilot program.
Kansai Thru Pass project delayed and JCB exits
A year ago, ContactlessNews featured the company’s Kansai Thru Pass involvement. The Kansai Thru Pass is a contactless card that could be used for fare payment on buses, subways, and train routes run by 39 transit companies in Kansai, Japan’s second largest metro area.
JCB?s goal was to issue more than five million Thru Pass cards over the next five years while establishing a merchant base of 10,000 point-of-sale terminals to accept payments from the cards. Mass rollout was scheduled to begin this month. But, according to Ms. Krueger, the rollout has been delayed and JCB is no longer involved in the project.
“JCB was originally chosen to provide the back-end system and processor operations but this did not work out well and JCB is no longer involved in this project,” said Ms. Krueger. “In this role, JCB would have been like a First Data or Paymenttech, not the card issuer,” she added.
No stranger to technology innovations
As for some future offerings, JCB last October stuck its foot in the biometric waters with announcement of a fingerprint authentication trial project using a cell phone. The trial started in November in Japan with JCB testing the usefulness of fingerprint authentication for mobile access to JCB’s on-line cardmember account inquiry service, “MyJCB,” using NTT DoCoMo’s F505i mobile phone equipped with a fingerprint scanner. In this trial, the participants download the JCB Safety Login application, developed in cooperation with Fujitsu, to the F505i mobile phone to verify fingerprint information. Access to the ‘MyJCB’ service is permitted only if fingerprint authentication is successful.
JCB also recently launched an Internet authentication program, J/Secure, which adds a password identification step to the traditional online shopping process.
Established in 1961 in Japan, JCB first started looking beyond its Japanese borders with the launch of a card issuance program in Hong Kong in 1985. Today, 50 million JCB cards are accepted at 10 million merchant locations through by close ties with 3,000 worldwide financial institutions.