From the December 1999 issue of Startups

American Express has introduced a new credit card that marries high tech and shopping under a secure electronic canopy. The Blue card has an embedded electronic chip that allows cardholders to access their personal information--meaning users no longer have to manually enter this data when making Web purchases.

AmEx's free Online Wallet service allows Blue cardholders to enter purchase information, such as name, account number and shipping address. When they're ready to make an online purchase, they just open the wallet and click on the "complete purchase" button to automatically fill in the merchant's purchase form.

Designed for added security as well as convenience, Blue's smart chip stores a unique digital certificate that acts much like a key. When a user inserts the card into the smart card reader attached to his or her PC (available free to cardholders through January 21, 2000; $25 thereafter), and enter a PIN number, the reader accesses the certificate and allows the user to unlock his or her electronic wallet. This helps prevent unauthorized access to the wallet, cutting down on Internet credit card fraud and protecting both buyers and merchants.

The card comes with its own Web site, where users can pay bills online, download information from Quicken or Microsoft Money, and use online financial tools to calculate net worth, cash flow and retirement goals. Of course, Blue also has a traditional magnetic stripe that can be read at point-of-sale terminals. So if your business operates only in the "real" world, there's no need to feel left out.