CUSTOMER ACTIVATED MULTI-VALUE
This application is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/370,227 filed on Feb. 20, 2003 and now U.S. Pat. No. 7,072,864, which is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/505,189 filed onFeb. 16, 2000 and now U.S. Pat. No. 6,865,547 Bl, which is a continuation application of 10 U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/193,712 filed on Nov. 17, 1998 and now U.S. Pat. No. 6,032,136.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The invention generally relates to transaction and payment cards, including credit cards, bank cards, debit cards, telephone calling cards and the like, and more particularly to a transaction card or payment card which can be activated to have an alternative or secondary use as a credit card by adding 20 a credit feature.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Today, credit card usage is virtually a part of a customer's 25 daily life because customers recognize the many advantages of obtaining credit cards. For example, credit cards are safer to carry than money, and they can help a customer to establish a good credit rating. Additionally, they can serve as a source of convenience should the customer need to make an unex- 30 pected purchase for which they may not have the cash immediately available. As a result of this growing trend, the credit card industry is a booming and profitable industry; thus, customers are constantly inundated with many different credit card offers. For example, customers are offered depart- 35 ment store credit cards, gasoline product cards (oil companies), telephone calling cards, VISA® credit cards, MASTERCARD® credit cards, AMERICAN EXPRESS® credit cards, debit cards, and/or the like.
One of the most appealing features of a credit card pur- 40 chase is that it allows customers to buy now and pay later. Another advantage is that transaction cards permit customers to establish direct relationship with specific types of business, for example, a telephone calling card or a gasoline product payment card. With a gasoline product card, a cardholder has 45 the convenience of purchasing gasoline products from a specific oil company, without conducting a cash transaction, and receiving one itemized bill at the end of the billing period. The itemized billing statement is beneficial for providing businesses or entrepreneurs with a detail summary, at the end of 50 the month or year, of the amount of gasoline which was purchased during the time period and an easy method to calculate business-related mileage driven during the time period. Another enticement of credit card usage is that some credit card issuers offer to their customers "reward points or 55 reward offers" as an incentive to increase the amount of the customer's purchases or to increase the frequency in which the customer transacts purchases with their credit card.
While customers realize the benefits of obtaining several different types of credit cards and establishing several differ- 60 ent types of relationships with different types of industries, customers can sometimes be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of credit cards that they need to carry in order to perform daily activities. Although VISA® and MASTERCARD® are widely accepted, no one card has been accepted universally. 65 Regardless of the fact that VISA® and MASTERCARD® can be used to perform other types of transactions, the usage
of a VISA® or MASTERCARD® for the purchase of gasoline or a telephone call usually does not allow the customer to establish a direct relationship with the individual companies enacting the transaction.
Furthermore, using VISA® and/or MASTERCARD® to make a purchase can be more expensive for a merchant because this transaction is treated as a purchase on the VISA® or MASTERCARD® credit card account for which the merchant often pays a transaction fee. Similarly, customers may incur additional expenses when using VISA® and/or MASTERCARD® to perform different types of transactions. For instance, when a customer uses her VISA® credit card to make a telephone call, the telephone company determines the amount of the telephone call and bills the amount directly to the customer's VISA® account. The amount is then entered as a purchase onto the customer's VISA® account and if the customer fails to pay the entire balance by the next billing cycle, the customer also incurs an additional charge based on the current interest rate associated with the account until the entire VISA® account is paid in full. Therefore, a need still exists for a cost-effective method which provides a customer the convenience of using one card which can be easily activated to perform different functions, establish different relationships with different industries (e.g., a phone card, a gas card, a catalog purchasing card, or a dining card) and offer rebate incentives.
Traditionally, the procedure for obtaining a credit card normally requires several steps which can delay the customer's receipt of a functioning credit card for approximately 26-50 days. The normal credit card issuance process begins when the prospective customer receives direct marketing material in the mail or at a merchant's location. Within the next 7-14 days, the prospective customer reads the approximately 500-800 word application, completes the application and returns the application to the credit card issuer through the mail system. Once mailed, it takes another 3-4 days for the paper application to travel through the postal system. The credit card issuer receives the paper application, and over the next 10-20 days, the credit card issuer processes the application to determine whether to accept or decline the customer's application. Thereafter, the customer receives a written response within 5 to 7 days as to whether their application is accepted or declined. If the application is accepted, a functioning credit card often will be included in the written response. After 1 to 5 days, the customer will read the 8001500 word credit card agreement and then will activate the credit card telephonically before it can be used. However, not all credit card issuers take the additional measure of requiring telephonic activation; some may use a less secure method of mailing active cards.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The Customer Activated Multi-Value (CAM) card provides a customer with a transaction card with a primary use that is not a credit use, to which the customer can add a credit card feature, as well as other features which can be added to enhance the transaction card's usage. The Customer Activated Multi-Value card can be activated as a non-credit transaction card (e.g., a phone card, a gasoline product card, a catalog purchasing card, a dining card, or the like) or as a transaction card with a credit card feature. Activation of the CAM card as a transaction card allows the customer to purchase goods and services from one specific vendor or several specific vendors who offer the same specific type of product and/or services and to establish a relationship with each ven