One of the dilemmas facing consumers in this age of internet is whether or not to use a credit card to make purchases online either for those who dont possess such a thing as a credit card or for those who are concerned about the security implications of sending their credit card details into cyberspace.

A possible solution is at hand. The Irish bank, Permanent TSB, in collaboration with the Visa company, has developed a virtual credit card voucher, known as 3V, the first pre-paid and disposable credit card.

Later this month Ireland will lead the way in trying out the new system, which operates basically like a prepaid cell-phone credit card. The beauty of the 3V lies in its simplicity. Anyone over 16 can apply for the card by logging on to the website www.3V.ie - applicants are only asked to give their name, address and phone number. A few days later they will receive a plastic card in the mail which can then be used to buy credit in denominations from 20 to 350 from stores participating in the scheme. By late autumn over 3000 stores should be selling 3V credit according to Permanent TSB predictions.

The advantages of the card are three-fold: the 3V gives added security, is simple to apply for and is available even to those who would not otherwise be eligible for a traditional credit card.

If the 3V card is a success in Ireland, the UK and Europe will soon be following suit.