AmEx Aims Blue Card at Internet Shoppers

It’s been green, gold and platinum. Now American Express Co. is releasing a blue version of its well-known credit card specially designed for shopping on-line.

Called Blue, the new card was officially launched last month and contains a smart chip which will offer customers additional security in their Internet-based transactions when used with a smartcard reader, American Express said. Blue can also be used as a regular credit card since it has the traditional magnetic stripe that can be swiped through and read at POS (point-of-sales) terminals worldwide.

In November, customers will be able to register on American Express’s Web site for a software data management and storage application known as an on-line wallet to better facilitate Internet purchases, the credit card company said. Customers only have to enter the required purchase data into their wallet once, such as their name, account number and shipping address. When they want to buy something on-line, they just click open the wallet and hit the “complete purchase” button, according to the company.

In order to prevent unauthorized access to an American Express on-line wallet, customers will be offered free smartcard readers which they then connect to their PCs. The smart chip in the Blue card stores a digital certificate unique to each card holder. When the card is placed in the reader, the cardholder enters his or her PIN, the digital certificate is read by the reader and the on-line wallet can be unlocked. American Express said it will provide cardholders with free smartcard readers through Jan. 31, 2000. After that time, the readers will cost US$25 each. Blue card members are also offered a fraud protection guarantee which protects them against any unauthorized charges made on-line with their cards, American Express said.

Blue has its own Web site ( where card-holders can check their current account status in terms of charges to their cards and pay their bills on-line. The Blue Web site additionally offers preview information on upcoming concerts and performers, and cardholders can hook up to free simulcasts of concerts where American Express is an advertiser (