Card dollar volume on American Express cards outside the U.S. rose 17.5% year-over-year in the first quarter, compared to a 13.6% gain for U.S. cards during the same period. The number of non-U.S. cards-in-force as of March 31st was 25.8 million, a 5.1% gain over the previous year. Card volume outside the U.S. was $25.8 billion for the first quarter, which benefited from a weaker U.S. dollar. AmEx says Global Network Services volume rose more than 35% in the first quarter due to continued strong growth in non-U.S. partner volume and the addition of MBNA-related volumes in the U.S. During the quarter, American Express launched its first co-branded credit card in Mexico, and introduced a new “Platinum Credit Card” in Hong Kong. Also, Baiduri Bank in Brunei launched its first “Classic” and “Gold” American Express cards and Vietcombank and Viet Nam Airlines partnered to launch an American Express card for frequent fliers. AmEx also inked Global Network Services’ agreements with Union Bank of Switzerland and Russian Standard Bank. For complete details on American Express first quarter performance, visit CardData (www.carddata.com). (CFI Library 3/7/05; 4/12/05)
VISA International reported that debit card transactions soared by 137% and cards-in-force exploded 189% in Indonesia last year. VISA says its 6,756,000 debit cardholders in the country are a fraction of the 60 million consumers with bank accounts that are eligible for VISA debit cards. Earlier this month, VISA launched a new television commercial in Indonesia and across Asia Pacific starring Catherine Zeta-Jones to promote the use of debit cards. Meanwhile, credit cards grew by 28.8% to 3,649,000 according to CardFlash International. Overall card sales volume soared by 96% to $7.3 billion with retail sales volume up by 32% to $2.3 billion. Indonesia was one of the first markets in the world where VISA launched the unembossed “VISA Debit” card in 2004.
A new study found that fuel card volume growth averages over 4% across 16 European markets and that fuel card volume sales now account for 21% of total retail volume sales. The research was conducted by Research and Markets. From a regional perspective, Scandinavia is the most advanced fuel card market with private fuel cards being as preponderant as the commercial variety. In fact, it is estimated that there are around twice the amount of private fuel cards as those used by consumers. Not only is this region mature, it is verging on saturation.
In the UK and parts of Central and Southern Europe, an examination by R&M of card per commercial vehicle penetration rates shows there is still scope to develop business card portfolios, particularly at the smaller end of the market where the card per fleet vehicle sits below the European average of 0.4.
With a growing cry over the unfairness of universal default policies, Citibank testified yesterday that it has ended its practice of automatically raising interest rates on cardholders who default with other creditors but who were never late on a Citibank account. Under Citi’s new policy, cardholders who are notified that their rate is being increased due to universal default have the option to not accept the new rate. If the cardholder opts out, then they may continue to use the card under the existing terms until the card expires. Most current card programs require cardholders to accept the new higher rate triggered by universal default or to close the account.
Calgary-based DirectCash reported that revenues and gross profits increased 28% and 27%, respectively, over the comparative period in 2004. Period over period growth is primarily organic in nature with only 94 of the total increase of 569 ATMs attributable to acquisitions.
Growth in non-ATM businesses was particularly strong, with increases in prepaid cash card loads increasing by 246%. During the first quarter, the number of ATM transactions were 5,575,688. Debit terminal transactions were 629,767 and prepaid cash card loads were 333,434. For complete details on DirectCash’s latest performance, visit CardData (www.carddata.com).
Colorado-based Dynamic Solutions International has renamed its CardWizard Division to Dynamic Card Solutions which offers instant issue and PIN selection software to banks. The name change will accurately define all of the products it offers, rather than branding the company under one product name. DSI’s Dynamic Card Solutions division is a developer of instant issuance and PIN solutions for banks, credit unions and retailers.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs heard an earful yesterday from consumer advocates, regulators and Senators as it opened hearings on credit card practices. Most of the criticism centered on penalty/default pricing and disclosure with a strong call for the industry to clean up its act before Congress does. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Julie Williams told the panel that there is room for improvement in credit card disclosure. However, she pointed out that the OCC does not have statutory authority to issue regulations defining particular credit card or practices or regulations setting standards for disclosures. The OCC has asked Congress to change this. Federal Reserve Governor Edward Gramlich yesterday testified that since the FRB began a review of “Reg Z” in December it has received a strong response during the public comment period. He said consumers believe there is not enough advance notice for changes in terms, and believe a much longer time period is needed to find alternative credit sources. For rate (and other) changes not involving a consumer’s default, a number of creditors support a thirty-day notice rule and a few support a consumer “opt-out” right under “Reg Z.” He also said the Board received suggestions for standardizing payment cut-off hours in ranges, such as between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. for mail delivery and 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for electronic payments. Gramlich noted that 39% of the 2,300 complaints against state member banks processed by the Board last year were complaints about credit cards.
American Express has launched a prepaid, reloadable card version of its popular paper-based “Travelers Cheques.” The new “Travelers Cheque Card” is being pitted against bank-issued debit cards as a safer travel alternative since it is not linked to a bank account and can be refunded in 24 hours. Furthermore, AmEx says a recent survey showed that 42% of consumers fear a lost or stolen debit card could also put them at risk for identity theft. The card is available in U.S. Dollar, Euro and British Pound Sterling, enabling consumers to lock in exchange rates, unlike debit cards that are subject to each bank’s exchange rates. The new “Travelers Cheque Card” requires a minimum initial load of $300 and a maximum of $2,750 and carries a $14.95 issuance fee per card. Reloads can be added in $50 increments with a $100 minimum. There is a $5 reload fee. A maximum of $400 daily can be withdrawn by ATM but a $2.50 fee applies, plus any applicable surcharges, for each transaction. To kick-off the new product AmEx is offering a free companion air ticket to customers purchasing the card before October 15th
FreeStar Technology has named Angel Pacheco to the position of Chief Technical Officer. Prior to FreeStar, Pacheco was the CIO for Blackstone Calling Cards and a specialist in prepaid product distribution. Helsinki-based FreeStar Technology is a payment processing and technology company operating a robust Northern European “BASE24” credit card processing platform. The Company currently processes
approximately 1,000,000 card payments per month for an established
client base that comprises companies such as Finnair, Ikea and Stockman.
Hypercom announced that its Board of Directors has reaffirmed its previously authorized share repurchase program of up to $10 million of the Company’s common stock. The company has $9.7 million available for repurchase under the previously announced share repurchase program. Hypercom is a global payment technology provider.
Atlanta-based RBS Lynk has promoted Nerino Mayer to VP/Indirect Sales and has hired Lori Breitzke, formerly with Ingenico and VeriFone, as VP/Prepaid Products. Mayer will be responsible for developing RBS Lynk’s indirect sales strategy to increase strategic partnerships and referral programs. Prior to joining RBS Lynk, Mayer worked in business development roles for Hewlett Packard, VeriFone, and Hypercom, leaders in payment processing equipment and technologies. His industry background includes development of eCommerce payment platforms. Prior to joining RBS Lynk, Lori Breitzke worked in a variety of business development and marketing positions at leading terminal and card products companies, including VeriFone and Ingenico. Breitzke brings substantial experience in a variety of prepaid products. RBS Lynk is a single-source provider of electronic payment processing services and is a member of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.
Ho Chunk Nation, Wisconsin’s largest casino operator, has renewed its contract with Cash Systems for check cashing, ATM and credit and debit card cash advance services. Cash Systems also provide wireless cash access services to remote areas of the casinos. The Ho-Chunk Nation operates the Ho-Chunk Casino,Rainbow Casino, Majestic Pines and DeJope casinos. Cash Systems, Inc.is a provider of cash access and related services to the retail and gaming industries.