Visa USA has
signed an agreement with Blackhawk Network, a US provider of
card-based financial solutions, to introduce Visa ReadyLink, Visa’s
prepaid load network, to Blackhawk Network’s alliance partner

Supermarket chain Safeway will be the first in Blackhawk Network’s
alliance of 60,000 stores in the US to implement Visa ReadyLink.
Fifth Third Bank will serve as the acquiring financial

The Visa ReadyLink service allows consumers to more easily add
funds to eligible Visa reloadable prepaid cards at participating
retail locations. Visa said the service also enables Visa and its
member financial institutions to further meet the needs of
underserved consumers. According to Visa estimates, there are
approximately 80 million underserved consumers in the US who
receive approximately $1 trillion in annual income and rely heavily
on cash for everyday transactions.

The introduction of the service to Safeway stores allows consumers
to add funds to Visa reloadable prepaid cards at more than 1,550
retail locations nationwide including participating Safeway, Carrs,
Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Pak’n Save, Pavilions, Randalls, Vons and
Tom Thumb stores.

As of mid-December 2006, cardholders could begin adding funds to
participating Visa reloadable prepaid cards at Safeway

Donald Boeding, Fifth Third Processing Solutions senior
vice-president and general manager of merchant services, said: “We
see a great opportunity to bring the Visa ReadyLink solution to our
merchant partners. Fifth Third merchants will benefit from
delivering a valuable new service to consumers.”

Todd Brockman, senior vice-president of prepaid products at Visa
USA, said: “Visa is committed to developing a prepaid category
infrastructure that provides value to consumers while enabling
merchant partners and member financial institutions to maximise the
potential of prepaid products. Partnering with Blackhawk Network
and Fifth Third will enable consumers to add funds to their Visa
reloadable prepaid cards at convenient shopping locations like
Safeway, expanding the ReadyLink service to reach consumers