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In March, Discover Financial Services made two announcements with regards to new expansion efforts and adding the U.S-bound EMV technology to its card's capabilities.

For the first time in its 26-year history, Discover will make its credit card available outside of the United States, when Banco Pichincha in Ecuador starts issuing cards. The international expansion is a new extension to Discover's franchise agreement with Diners Club Ecuador (DCE) that allows Discover cards to be issued in a non-U.S. country.

Banco Pichincha received the rights to issue the card through a sub-license agreement with DCE. Banco Pichincha is the largest bank in Ecuador, with a 29 percent market share of the banking system's assets. DCE is a strong player in the card market, with over 40% market share by sales volume. By adding the Discover card to its portfolio of products, DCE hopes to gain more market share in Ecuador.

"This agreement gives us the opportunity to expand our financial services product portfolio and introduce consumers in Ecuador to the Discover brand, which has a proven track record of success in the U.S.," said Pablo Salazar, president of Diners Club Ecuador, in a statement.

The Ecuadorian Discover card will include a basic version of Discover's Cashback Bonus program, in which cardholders earn up to one percent cash back on all purchases. Cardholders can redeem their cash rewards for a gift card once they earn US$20, or they can accrue them for statement credits after earning US$40. In the future, Discover will add new card products and features to its line, but because cash back rewards programs are a new concept in Ecuador, it must first educate cardholders on how they work.

Discover will also benefit from instantaneously having a large network in Ecuador. DCE has 100 percent merchant acceptance, and because Discover cards will be processed through DCE's network, they will be accepted everywhere Diners Club is.

"Discover clearly will benefit from the success of the Diners Club Ecuador franchise, which is a dominant force throughout the country," said Diane Offereins, EVP and president of Discover Payment Services, in a statement. "By leveraging DCE's strength and expertise in-market, Discover has a tremendous opportunity to build its brand globally and share its most compelling attributes -- including best cash rewards, service and value -- with the people of Ecuador."

Discover also announced its own mandate for implementing the EMV standard. EMV cards contain chips and are used in conjunction with PINs at the point of purchase. Discover has informed its acquirers and direct-connect merchants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico that they must be able to accept Discover's EMV-compliant payment specification by 2013.

Discover has been working on EMV compliance for the last three years and has developed its own EMV-compliant payment specification called D-PAS. This specification will be deployed across the Diners Club, PULSE and Discover card networks.

"Enabling EMV in North America is a significant step in Discover's approach toward emerging payments, and clearly a necessary one," said Troy Bernard, global head of chip payment technology at Discover, in a statement. "We believe each payment solution should enable choice and security within its transaction environment, which is why when it comes to EMV, we're giving stakeholders choice and flexibility on how they implement it."

To that end, Discover will support both online and offline card authentication channels. It will accept both chip PIN and chip signature types of transactions. It will also support both contact and contactless cards and will be able to work with mobile wallets.

Discover has already been at work with EMV deployment in the U.S. This January it worked with Wal-Mart to enable select stores to process EMV card transactions.