System Manages Payment in Foreign Currency

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DPI Merchant Services and Planet Payment recently introduced a transaction system that allows online merchants to price goods and receive settlement in multiple currencies.

At its most basic level, the system allows companies to receive online payment in their preferred currency and lets customers pay in the currency of their choice. The exchange between an American shopper and an Italian online retailer, for example, is automated without the two parties having to exchange dollars and liras at a bank.

Furthermore, Web sites can show customers the same price that will appear on their credit card statements, unlike most cross-border Internet credit card transactions, where pricing can change between the time the item is purchased and when it is billed to the credit card due to currency fluctuations.

There will be cases where a business will lose or gain small amounts of money because of changes in currency value. If the merchant wants, it can receive settlement services from DPI/Planet Payment so there is no actual foreign exchange for the business.

While firms can select from 140 currencies, DPI/Planet Payment typically limit marketers to displaying and offering a maximum of 20 currencies. Web sites can post a pull-down menu showing a daily exchange rate scale with several currencies or can let the system list the one price in the appropriate nation's currency.

Additionally, the service supports wireless sales channels for devices such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants.

To use the system, firms must also implement Planet Payment's transaction "gateway" software, which makes basic credit card transactions possible. The gateway technology is available with the multiple-currency system at no extra cost.

For the DPI/Payment Planet offering, U.S. merchants will pay 3.49 percent of every transaction processed by the system. The transaction fee varies for retailers located in other nations. Otherwise, the service comes with a $175 setup fee and $25 monthly payments.

The system is being targeted at large retail firms, in particular the 500 charter members of the Electronic Retailing Association, Arlington, VA. DPI, Omaha, NE, already supplies many of the members with other credit-oriented acquisition services.

The service accommodates England's popular Switch credit cards, opening up sales opportunities to 30 percent of that country's population, said Thomas DeLuca, senior vice president of strategic planning at Planet Payment, New York, which has supplied its multiple currency transaction technology for this offering.

"With Web buying going the way it is, customers are certainly going to be leery about dealing with a merchant from another country," he said. "Our system was made to [alleviate] those concerns."

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