VendTek Systems, Peoples Card Services and Visa Canada have introduced
the “3V Virtual Visa,” Canada’s first prepaid virtual Visa program,
following an agreement with 3V Transaction Services online payments
company. Allowing customers to shop online or by phone using a prepaid
disposable 16-digit Visa number, used online just like a standard credit
card, the 3V voucher program will be introduced to the Canadian market
in December, available through participating Now Prepay serviced retail
outlets in denominations ranging from $20 to $500. Peoples will act as
the Visa issuer and VendTek will be responsible for marketing and
distribution of the 3V product. All parties are expecting to spend up to
$300,000 in marketing costs in the first year.

Procrastinating Consumers are Time-Strapped

The 66% of all consumers yet to finish their holiday shopping, 21% of whom will be shopping for gifts the week leading into Christmas and 4% of whom are actually planning to gift shop as late as Christmas Eve, aren’t necessarily lazy. Only 18% of these procrastinating consumers are actually time-strapped, however, with 31% holding out for the best deals; 19% still saving money for holiday gifts; 11% are waiting to use their last paycheck; 10% are waiting for post-holiday sales to buy presents for those on their lists this year; and 5% are holding out for an end-of-year bonus. This, according to the latest American Express “Spending & Saving Tracker” gaging what consumers plan to spend on and what motivates them to spend or save, also shows 32% expect to spend more while 33% expect to spend the same in the next 30 days when compared to the previous 30 days, 22% of whom attribute this to decreases in prices; 21% to making trade-offs with other expenses; and 20% to having finally saved enough money to afford items.

Item %
Clothing 44%
Nails 24%
Hair 31%
Source: AmEx

Fiserv Names UChoose Rewards Winners

Fiserv has awarded ten winners of the “YOU WIN Sweepstakes” a total of one million “UChoose Rewards” points, a retail value of $10,000.
“UChoose” is a turn-key debit and credit card rewards and loyalty program for financial
institution clients. “UChoose Rewards” was recognized this year by Cards
International for being the “Best Innovation in a Loyalty Program” and been named one of the “Top 10 Technologies of 2009” by Bank
Technology News, and Chessie Federal Credit Union, an UChoose Rewards
client, was selected for Best Practice recognition by Credit Union
Journal for debit card use and card rewards. Part of the Fiserv core competency in Customer and Channel Management,
UChoose Rewards allows banks and credit unions to compete with the well-
established reward programs of the nation’s largest banks. UChoose
Rewards from Fiserv lets financial institutions select a merchant-funded
or issuer-funded program -or a blend of the two – to meet their specific
profitability objectives. UChoose Rewards allows financial institutions
to leverage hundreds of name brand merchants along with local businesses
to build a customized program of offerings. To maximize the rewards
experience, financial institutions can allow customers to combine points
earned for all their bank or credit union accounts. To redeem the points,
winners can choose from among millions of products, travel, adventure
experiences, event tickets, gift cards and in some cases, cash back.

BankCard USA Introduces Guarantee Program

Merchant service provider BankCard USA has launched a “5 Point Service
Guarantee Program” for its customers. The newly launched 5 Point Service
Guarantee Program states:
New customers are never sent refurbished equipment or outdated POS
software—BankCard USA ensures that all hardware and software is the
newest and most updated available, reducing potential malfunctions and
resulting in faster transactions for the merchant; whether merchants
need new
POS equipment for a grand opening, convention, or a merchant needs to
make a quick switchover, BankCard USA will take care of customer needs.
can be delivered within 24 hours and with no contracts; customer
requests must and will be handled on the first call.
BankCard USA knows that merchants are far too busy to worry about
following up with their merchant servicer. BankCard USA’s goal is to
make sure
all problems no matter how big are solved within 24 hours. BankCard USA
specializes in credit card processing for new or existing businesses.
They offer payment solutions for all types of businesses, including
internet, retail store-front, mail-order, phone-order, trade shows,
professionals, service industry and home-based businesses.

Winn-Dixie Launches a fuelperks! Promo

Grocery chain Winn-Dixie is tripling rewards for its fuelperks! loyalty
program in Jacksonville and Panama City for gift card purchases. Winn-Dixie is adding an additional 10 cents-per-gallon savings
on gas for every $50 customers spend on select gift cards.
The fuelperks! Rewards program provides Winn-Dixie customers in the
Jacksonville and Panama City markets the everyday opportunity to save 5
cents per gallon of gas for every $50 they spend using their CRC. This
special gift card promotion, which adds the additional savings, applies
to more than 60 gift card brands ranging from iTunes and Chili’s to
Lowe’s Home Improvement and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida
Healthcare cards.

Amazon.com Offers Gift Card Mall

Third-party gift card provider Blackhawk Network
announced its “Gift Card Mall” is now available on Amazon.com.
Gift cards for over 50 retailers — including popular brands such as
Applebee’s, Justice Brands, Regal Entertainment Group Theatres, Sephora,
Subway Restaurants and The Home Depot — are currently available on
Amazon.com/giftcardmall. Gift Card Mall will offer free standard shipping
throughout the month of December for gift cards purchased on Amazon.com.
CA-based Blackhawk Network develops unique products in easy-to-use
formats and delivers them to consumers through an exclusive retail
network of leading grocery, mass, convenience, drug and specialty
retailers. The network reaches more than 165 million consumers each
week. Blackhawk Network is a subsidiary of Safeway Inc.

Long Recession Impacts Holiday Card Debt

The recession has had a significant impact on consumer behavior and attitudes surrounding holiday credit card debt, with 55% inspired to make a more proactive effort to avoid incurring any or more credit card debt. This has influenced changes in consumer behavior toward holiday credit card debt with 21% expecting to have credit card debt after January 2010 from the 2009 holiday season, a 5% decrease from the year ago period. This, according to LowerMyBills.com survey, a part of Experian, conducted between Nov. 11 and Dec. 8, also shows 24% of the consumers planning to carry holiday credit card debt after January 2010 are planning to pay it off in one to two months, compared to only 18% Y/Y. Additionally, 69% of those becoming more proactive to reducing credit card debt cited higher credit card interest rates as a reason for their proactivity while 38% included the proliferation of information about the impact of carrying credit card debt and 37% cited the potential damage to their credit score.

SECU and Visa Partner for PCs

North Carolina’s SECU has given 54 laptops to the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy
for at-risk youth. The laptops which will be used to enhance instruction at the
institution, feature links to financial literacy programs, including
SECU’s teen website and the National Endowment for Financial Education’s
NEFE website, as well as Visa’s program, Practical Money Skills for Life
(www.practicalmoneyskills.com). The ribbon cutting ceremony for the
Academy’s computer lab was held on December 7th and attended by North
Carolina Adjutant General William E. Ingram, Jr., numerous Academy
officials and staff, Academy cadets, Shirley Bell – SECU’s Board of
Directors immediate past chair, SECU volunteer Advisory Board member Dr.
Al Wentzy and various Credit Union staff members.
SECU serves over 1.5 million members.

Six New Trends in ID Theft Emerge

A new report finds six new trends. The Identity Theft Assistance Center found an emerging breed of cyber bank robber; fewer silos and more collaboration on cyber security; expanded use of identity management solutions to address identity theft, data breaches, and cyber crime; a bumpy start for “Red Flag” rules; stiffer sentences for identity theft; and possible federal regulation of breaches of consumer data. ITAC’s victim assistance service – which has helped more than 60,000 consumers recover from identity theft.

Consumer Spending Continues to Build Slowly

Consumers have increased their retail spending 24% in November and the outlook for planned purchasing in December is strong. The Past 30-Day Retail Index for November is now 11.2 while over the next 30 days it is projected to increase 36%. Consumer sentiment, however, remains low and relatively steady over the past three months at 41.8 in December, down slightly from 42.2 in November. This, according to the “Consumer Reports Index Dec ’09” report, also shows the low but stable consumer sentiment numbers are tied to the Consumer Reports “Trouble Tracker Index,” which has stalled at 62.0 and has been on the decline since September, thanks in part to the 37.2% of Americans reporting one or more financial difficulties up from 35.6% in November. These difficulties include 15.7% unable to afford medical bill or medications; 13.4% facing increased credit card interest rate, penalty fees, etc; 9.4% having missed payment on a major bills; 7.9% experiencing lost or reduced healthcare coverage; and 7.4% having lost their job.

Consumer Financial Protection Agency Passes

The House of Representatives passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173) financial regulatory reform at a 223-202 vote. With this, the bill establishes a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to regulate current and future consumer financial products. Politicians supporting the bill do so in the hopes of restoring balanced regulation to the financial industry and help American families save and invest in their own futures with closing the for-profit private loan loophole. They are also hoping to put an end to abusive private loans issued by educational institution and to eventually close the controversial auto dealer loan loophole, which allows documented predatory practices to flourish in a market as large as credit cards.