NEW YORK -- Concerned about increases in fraud, the major bank-card associations are considering the mandatory use of personal identification numbers for credit-card purchases.
The idea, long considered impractical with credit cards, was broached in a speech last week by Alex Hart, president of MasterCard International Inc.
"I think we are at great risk every passing month that we don't move forward to implement PINs," or personal identification numbers, Mr. Hart told members of the International Association of Credit Card Investigators.
He acknowledged it would take years to make PINs -- used for automated-teller machine withdrawals and many debit-card transactions -- standard with credit cards. But he said it was "crucial" to explore such a requirement to improve security at retailing sites.
Christoph Abt, a Visa International spokesman, said his association agreed that "moving to PINs is inevitable in the long term." But he added: "There is quite a lot of work to do."
Bank members of MasterCard and Visa lost more than $1 billion last year to credit-card fraud.
At MasterCard, losses from stolen or fake credit cards have almost doubled, to 0.17 percent of total sales in 1991. That's up from about 0.09 percent in 1989, said Philip Verdi, an executive vice president of the card group.
Visa members worldwide lost $630 million to fraud in 1991, $97 million of which was due to counterfeiting, Mr. Abt said.