Wells Fargo is the first bank
to deploy a Visa platform which notifies credit card customers of
transaction details via mobile phone within seconds of the
purchase. The issuer sends notifications via text message to
customers’ mobile phones, along with a free customer service number
to call if a transaction is suspicious.

 

Imagine a cardholder shopping
online. The shopper clicks on an item, makes a purchase with their
credit card, and instantaneously, a text message arrives confirming
the purchase and its amount.

Wells Fargo can now do just that,
and the bank believes it is just what online card users are looking
for in terms of security.

In an effort to better empower
consumers to manage and track their spending, Wells Fargo & Co
has teamed with Visa Inc to create Rapid Alerts, a free service
that comes as close as the cards industry has ever come to
real-time tracking of transactions.

Peter Ho, a product manager with
Wells Fargo’s credit card product innovation group, said real-time
alerts enlist cardholders in the fight against card fraud, while
also offering greater financial management tools than ever
before.

“We see this as a benefit to both
Wells Fargo and the consumer, and we think that sending a text
message out to a customer within seconds, so the phone is buzzing
even as you sign the statement, is a huge step forward,” Ho
said.

 

Empower
cardholders

“The beauty of this is that
consumers want to see this stuff, and to the extent we can make it
easy for them to do so, we think we can empower cardholders to take
a much more active role in overseeing their accounts.”

Rapid Alerts are powered by Visa’s
transaction alerts platform, and are sent on Wells Fargo’s behalf
straight to the cardholder from VisaNet, Visa’s global processing
network, typically within seconds of a transaction occurring.

Rapid Alerts are triggered when the
transaction meets certain criteria previously selected by the Wells
Fargo Visa account holder and are delivered via text message or
e-mail.

Criteria for transaction alerts
that cardholders may choose include transactions that exceed a
dollar amount chosen by the cardholder, transactions initiated
internationally and card-not-present transactions, such as
purchases made online or by telephone.

Cardholders can also ask to be
alerted to any cash withdrawals from an ATM machine, and any
declined transactions and gasoline transactions.

Ho said that these categories
include several high-risk areas, but also transactions that simply
solve headaches for cardholders if they’re alerted to them.

“Decline transactions, for example,
are a great entry point for customer service,” he said.

“So you get a text saying that your
gym membership has been declined – well, you recently got a new
card because your old one expired. You forgot to notify the gym. So
instead of being locked out of the gym, you are prompted to update
your information, and that’s one less headache to deal with.”

Rapid Alert messages contain the
amount, time and date of the transaction, as well as currency
conversion and information relating to the merchant, such as name
and location. Rapid Alert messages help customers track their
spending and better manage their finances. Customers also will be
alerted to Wells Fargo Visa credit card payments that are declined,
which may also help remind customers of recurring payments that
they forgot to update due to a reissued, lost or stolen card.

Ho said that Rapid Alerts let
consumers monitor their credit card account activity and take
immediate action if they believe a potentially fraudulent
transaction is taking place.

“We believe Rapid Alerts will give
customers added peace of mind that they will be notified almost
immediately when transactions occur,” Ho said.

“We piloted Rapid Alerts in 2009
and received an overwhelming positive response from participants
who said text alerts were an invaluable tool for monitoring their
accounts. We want to help our customers succeed financially, and
this is just one more tool to help them get there.”

With its launch of Rapid Alerts,
Wells Fargo became the first issuer to implement the technology
that Visa formally introduced in November 2009.

Wells was one of 12 North American
banking companies that evaluated it last year, said Ho, who said he
was surprised by the fact that the Wells Fargo employees who
participated in the test said they felt Wells was more on top of
their transaction data.

“I thought, being company insiders,
this would be no big deal to them, but it really was comforting to
them, and so we knew we were on to something,” Ho said.

Users can tailor the system to send
alerts based on specific criteria, including transaction size,
foreign transactions, automated teller machine withdrawals and
card-not-present sales.

 

Minute-to-minute
tracking

Though Rapid Alerts is designed to
spot fraud, Ho said the minute-to-minute tracking will do so
anyway.

“If I see a transaction coming in,
and it’s card-not-present, and I am in the house and my wife is
too, then as a cardholder I am wondering what’s going on, and
that’s how a lot of fraud detection works,” he said. “It is a
higher level of tracking and analysis than ever before.”

“The most effective financial
alerts deliver the right information at the right time – which
typically is right away,” said Mark Schwanhausser, senior analyst
for multichannel financial services for Javelin Strategy &
Research.

“Consumers hunger for real-time
alerts and mobile banking features that give them the confidence
that they are in control of their money – anytime, anywhere they
happen to roam.”

Visa’s role is to provide the
processing muscle to power the system, and also sees the instant
tracking mechanism as a bulwark against fraud.

“Visa is empowering cardholders to
take an active role in managing and protecting their Visa
accounts,” said Jim McCarthy, global head of products at Visa.

“Visa’s ability to analyse transactions ‘in-flight’ enables us
to provide our cardholders with near real-time transaction alerts.
Participating Visa cardholders can typically receive alerts before
they walk out of the store, rather than hours or even days
later.”