In Case Of Fire

In The Cards

Stressed out by trying to keep track of all your airline tickets, hotel confirmations and car rental paperwork? American Express and IBM are testing a "smart" American Express Corporate Card embedded with a computer chip that promises to do away with all these hassles.

American Airlines and American Express employees are testing the cards, which are used to check in for ticketless flights on American Airlines. Travelers check in by inserting the card into gate readers installed at 21 major U.S. airports. In the future, once travelers make electronic ticket bookings online, they will download the confirmation number to the smart card via a personal computer with smart card capabilities (or at an airport self-service kiosk). The two companies also expect to begin testing the cards with hotels, car rental companies and some merchants (for electronic cash transactions) by year-end.

"We're trying to make business travelers' lives easier by putting functions on the [smart card] chip that will cut down on waiting time and inconveniences," says Melissa Abernathy of American Express.

Sound great? Well, you'll have to wait until sometime next year when the companies expect to offer the intelligent technology to consumers.

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This article was originally published in the May 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In Case Of Fire.

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