The "plastic" revolution has come full circle, says the "father" of the credit card system as we know it. Now that there's no more room in our wallets for another one, it's time for "OneCard."
Melvin E. Salveson, a Los Angeles-based educator and businessman, founded the Master Charge system in the mid-1960s, thus forever changing the American way of doing business.Now, says Salveson, the plethora of plastic has gotten out of hand. The answer, he says, is OneCard, a new system of credit and information access aimed at simplifying, securing and storing all your financial needs into a single plastic card.
After two years of testing the concept in California, Salveson said OneCard is now ready to lead a new credit card revolution across the country. He told the Deseret News in an interview that Utahns can expect to see OneCard available here next year.
"It was never a question of if such a system was necessary or viable," said Salveson, "only a question of when it would be launched. The time is now."
The heart of OneCard is an advanced computer system by which holders can utilize their credit cards, bank accounts, medical records and insurance information by simply presenting the OneCard.
OneCard won't replace your American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and others, explained Salveson, it will simply allow you to use all of them - as well as many services not available with any of them - with a single card.
Unlike credit cards, which Salveson describes as "authorization" cards, OneCard is an "access" card.
"OneCard will not only eliminate the necessity for those ever-growing, unsecured, unwieldy wallets stuffed with paper and plastic (but) is projected to save business and consumers billions of dollars yearly through reduced handling costs and virtual elimination of credit card fraud," said Salveson.
Initially, he said, OneCard will be marketed to business and consumers through the health care system, with financial and retail accounts coming on line as the the number of users grows. He said the health care industry is in dire need of a system in which practitioners can readily determine a patient's medical history, lifesaving emergency medical information and employment and insurance eligibility - even in the middle of the night on a holiday.
"Compared to banking and retailing, the losses in the medical industry are enormous - 20 times that of retail and finance - because of the current inefficiencies and the lack of reliable information," said Salveson.
He cites one case in which a pregnant woman received $125,000 in emergency medical care before the hospital learned that the woman, contrary to what she had told them, had no insurance. "It happens all the time and the hospitals just have to eat the losses," said Salveson.
Unlike credit cards, OneCard transactions will require users to know a personal identification number (PIN), rendering unauthorized use of the card more difficult. In any event, OneCard insures both the card holder and the business against fraud.
Annual consumer fees for the card, said Salveson, will be $18 for the head of household, $12 for the spouse and $7 for each child. The company has conducted market studies to determine consumer acceptance of the concept and it's all been positive. Still, he concedes, "the proof is in the pudding," and the next year will tell whether Americans are willing to pay for the convenience of a single financial services card.
How do the major credit card companies feel about OneCard? Most see no problem, said Salveson, because the OneCard system will be "invisible" to them - their credit transactions will be unaffected. Also, they like the savings in both transaction costs and fraud losses that OneCard promises.
But he concedes that American Express still has to be convinced. It seems that after spending millions of advertising dollars telling Americans "Don't leave home without it," Amex is not thrilled with the idea of OneCard telling their customers it's now OK to do just that.