SafeDebit - A Solution to the E-Gaming E-Commerce Conundrum?

17 May 2000

Last week's Global Interactive Gaming Summit in Montreal revealed that some exciting new customer payment methods are in the works, and they might replace credit cards. In particular, Steve Fein with Signature Card Services, a firm that provides merchant credit card processing services for e-cash merchants, is promoting an easily used PIN-based ATM/debit card system that works in real-time. Barring unforeseen events, the system should be available for use within 90 days.

The system, SafeDebitTM, is an NYCE (New York Cash Exchange) product
that mimics real world ATM or debit card transactions by using a card-sized CD-ROM that can be used on any PC. Unlike most competing products, SafeDebit doesn't require users to download software or attach devices. Thus, customers can make online purchases with their SafeDebit CDs using any computer that has a CD-ROM drive.

Further, Fein says the system is adaptable and can be facilitated by any member bank worldwide. A few respected banking industry members, such as Michigan National Bank, have already signed on as issuers. Pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens have signed on as charter merchants.

Gaming sites can use the system too. Fein says Signature has already reached verbal agreements with several leading online gaming software providers. Once these companies work with their client sites to adopt the system, a domino effect could boost the system's popularity.

Customers can feel secure using the system, Fein explains, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, the cardholder data is encrypted and is never sent to any e-commerce site. Instead, the customer's account information is stored on the card and can only be accessed by using an ePIN. While payment is delivered to the necessary merchant, only the financial center has access to account information.

Security is tight enough, in fact, to meet and exceed the rigorous standards of both banking regulators and Ernst & Young, according to Fein.

The system requires the customer to remove the card from the CD-ROM drive before the transaction can be completed. Plus, full transaction details must be listed before a customer can authorize the payment, and all payments are taken directly from the user's checking or savings account. Likewise, all winnings are deposited directly into the account.

SafeDebit is advantageous for operators as well because the facilitation of instant payment eliminates chargebacks. Fein also says use of the card will result in fewer customer disputes, fewer user input errors and less fraud than payment methods currently in use.

Implementing the system is easy too. Merchants simply install the certified SafeDebit active Web component and the Merchant Payment Module software. Then they configure their Web servers to send out the applet for transaction. The applet expires with the close of the transaction. For the system to function, the merchant's system must be 128-layer SSL enabled.

Customers will be able to identify SafeDebit sites because participating sites will be asked to add the SafeDebit logo to their payment selection page alongside credit card logos. During the transaction, customers will have to choose SafeDebit before shipping/address information can be obtained or the applet can be downloaded. The complete transaction details, including exact amount of money due, will have to be displayed before the transaction can receive approval. Finally, the merchant will need to add a button that enables customers to receive funds back from the site.

Since the card isn't readily available, SafeDebit will need to draw merchants into actively signing on new customers. The card could then be co-branded with each site's name. Plus, merchants could earn a nice chunk of change for each account they sign up. (Fein couldn't say how much a site would earn for each new account because the details are still being ironed out.)

Even though the SafeDebit payment system has yet to be officially launched, it looks like it could be a promising addition to Internet payment processing systems. Further information can be obtained at or by contacting Signature Card Services directly.

Related Links
Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo (GIGSE) 2000

Vicky Nolan joined the IGN staff in October 1999. She's best known for inventing fire, the wheel and swiss cheese. She can be reached at