January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Will Canadians Charge Into Online Shopping?

Internet portal canada.com has partnered with Bank of Montreal to target online shoppers with the canada.com MasterCard for the holidays. Credit card-issuing banks in the U.S. have signed multiple Internet portals for cobranded credit cards; however, only Toronto-based Bank of Montreal has the cyber-cobranding bug in Canada.

"The United States is ahead of Canada by 18 months to two years online," says Clair Balfour, e-commerce product manager for canada.com. "It doesn't seem a big issue in the United States-people's willingness to put their credit card numbers on the Internet to make a purchase," he says; however, "there's still that concern here." The two partners created the canada.com shopping mall and the cobranded credit card to make Canadians more comfortable with shopping online.

Bank of Montreal's new canada.com cobranded MasterCard-available in the classic format only with a credit line of up to $50,000 (Canadian) and an interest rate of 18.4%-may make Canadians feel better about shopping online, but Bank of Montreal and canada.com are not promising their customers any more security of data transmission than any other cybermall offers. "I would like to say that there is no place to shop as secure as a mall like ours, but that would be too big a claim," says Balfour. "There are two levels of encryption. Most stores on our site have at least the first level."

Cardholders receive discounts or free shipping at participating stores in the canada.com mall, including www.chapters.ca, www.clubmonaco.com, www.HMV.com, www.gardencrazy.com, www.MegaDepot.com and the canada.com store. Ten retailers are signed on with the card program, and they promote the MasterCard through banner ads and Web pages of information on the credit card. More than 400 retailers comprise the virtual shopping mall, and Balfour says it would like to see all of the merchants signed on eventually.

Canada.com, North York, Ontario, is a division of the New York City-based media giant Hollinger International Inc.

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