TIO Networks multi-channel expedited bill payment processor and Georgia
Power electric utility have launched the self-service automated bill
payment program in select retail stores in metropolitan Atlanta. The
automated kiosks will enable Georgia Power customers to make bill
payments via TIO’s expedited bill payment processing system and are
expected to be fully operational this winter. Users will be able to
navigate through bill-pay applications in either English or Spanish, and
insert cash directly into self-serve automated kiosks to securely
complete transactions for payments posted immediately to the customers’
account. The customers will have the option to either print or forward
receipts to an email address of their choice and will pay a $2
convenience fee per transaction.


More than one-third of Canadians are seeking drastic measures to receive
a gift card instead of a bad gift this holiday season. In fact, 14% are
willing to wear a tacky holiday-themed sweater while 12% would consider
giving up chocolate for the season. This, according to a recent study
commissioned by American Express, also shows 56% would rather receive a
gift card than a gift basket (12%), home décor (11%), jewellery (13%) or
clothes (13%) from the worst gift-giver they know. An additional 83%
like to receive gift cards because they enjoy choosing their own gifts,
29% have returned a gift they didn’t like, while the same number have
re-gifted a gift to someone else.


BMO Bank of Montreal, Research In Motion and MasterCard Canada have
partnered to bring mobile payments to BlackBerry smartphones through its
MasterCard “PayPass” ‘tap and go’ contactless payment technology.
Participants will use “PayPass” Mobile Tag-equipped BlackBerry
smartphones to make secure purchases at any of the 8,500 merchant
locations in Canada that accept MasterCard PayPass, integrating the
mobile payment with the device. A confirmation email is subsequently
sent of each transaction sent to the BlackBerry smartphone. The
confirmations include purchase details such as the amount, retailer and
date of transaction while the Mobile Tag contains the chip and antenna
found in a regular PayPass card, with the addition of special material
to reduce interference between the Mobile Tag and the phone to which it
is attached.


Option consommateurs wants to warn consumers about certain practices
used by credit cards issuers that are likely to get them deeper into
debt, such as introductory preferential rates which skyrocket after the
initial introductory period. Options also is warning consumers of the
preferential rate only offered on certain types of transactions, such as
balance transfer and how easily lost the benefit of the introductory
rate is. In response, the organization recommends the federal government
take serious steps toward the introduction of a comprehensive
legislative structure with regard to electronic payment, including
credit cards and provincial governments regulate and monitor commercial
practices related to credit cards and information disclosure.


In response to research showing 82% of women and 78% of men would rather
receive something meaningful and memorable as a holiday gift, World
Vision has introduced its “World of Change” giving card, allowing
recipients to pick an item from World Vision’s charitable gift
catalogue. The research, made available from Deloitte, also show 64% of
consumers plan to buy gift cards as presents for friends or family
members. With more than 80 gifts available, Canadians who receive this
meaningful gift can choose from such items as malaria nets, antibiotics,
agriculture kits and immunizations. They can also make donations in
denominations of $30, $50, $75, $100 and $150. The “World of Change”
giving cards can be redeemed online at www.worldvision.ca/gifts and are
offered across Canada, except in Quebec.


Scotiabank has partnered with M-Com international mobile banking and
payments solution provider to offer Scotiabank customers m-banking in
the spring of 2010. The Scotiabank mobile banking service will provide
customers easy account access from their mobile device, regardless of
their mobile service provider, to view balances, transaction history,
pay bills and make transfers. GA-based M-Com is an international mobile
banking and payments solution provider with live Fortune 500 banking
customers across Asia Pacific, the Middle East and North America.
Scotiabank employs 69,000 and serves approximately 12.8 million
customers in some 50 countries around the world.


BMO Financial Group is acquiring the “Diners Club” North American franchise from Citigroup. The portfolio will add net receivables of nearly US$1 billion and annual transaction volume of US$7.8 billion, and will double BMO’s overall “Corporate Card” business. The deal gives BMO exclusive rights to issue “Diners Club” cards to corporate and professional clients in the U.S. and Canada. More than 6,000 North American businesses and nearly 250,000 cardholders, use “Diners Club” to manage their “Travel and Entertainment” expenses. In addition, more than 100,000 individuals in Canada and the U.S. carry the “Diners Club Professional Card.” Under the agreement, Citigroup will continue to provide support until the “Diners Club” business is fully integrated within BMO. As part of the acquisition, BMO will retain key resources responsible for product delivery, sales and customer service. Included in the acquisition is the “Club Rewards” program. the deal is expected to close by the end of the first quarter.


Nearly 55% of Canadians have contributed a consistent amount to charity
over the last 12 months, despite continued economic turmoil. Another 13%
have increased contribution in the last year and 18% increased
non-monetary donations in the past year with volunteer and non-paid
charitable work. Among Atlantic Canadians, 25% increased non-financial
contributions while women nationwide were 6% more likely to do so. These
findings, according to the MasterCard Canada “Charitable Giving Poll,”
comes in anticipation of a busy holiday season. However, 20% will not be
making financial charitable donations this year thanks in great part to
the poor economy; 28% of those between the ages of 25-34 are unlikely to
give to charity, versus just 12% of those over 65; 28% of Quebecs have
no intentions to contribute to charity. The majority of donors (60%) are
planning to contribute up to $500 this holiday season while only 5% are
expecting to contribute over $1,000.


The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) is
encouraging the announcement for a code of conduct for payment card
companies. Having been advocating greater oversight of payment card
systems in Canada to ensure fees charged to merchants are reasonable,
predictable, transparent, linked to costs and exclude expenses of
cardholder enrichments, the CRFA is commending the government for
recognizing the imbalance in negotiating power between credit card
companies and merchants. The new code is a first step toward ensuring
increased transparency and disclosure by credit card companies while
allowing merchants choice of the cards they accept and payment options
they provide.


Offering a chance to give a universal gift card that keeps its value,
American Express is launching a no-expiration gift card in Canada.
Fee-free after purchase, there are no fees for checking a balance, no
fees for monthly servicing and no fees for card replacement. Available
for purchase at more than 1000 Shoppers Drug Mart stores across the
country, the American Express Gift Card lets the recipient choose from
millions of products and experiences in Canada, is available in $50,
$100 and $200 denominations (with an upfront purchase charge ranging
from $4.95 to $6.95), is replaceable for free if lost or stolen and can
be used at locations across Canada where American Express is accepted.


Although Visa approves of government support of transparency and choice
in payments, fundamental to a well functioning economy, as disclosed in
the newly proposed Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Card
Industry in Canada, it is disappointed in the legislation overall. Visa
has reflected a choice of payments should be balanced between merchants
and consumers and the code would allow merchants to supersede consumer
choice at the POS. Visa believes merchants can and should decide whether
they want to accept Visa Debit cards and are free today to steer
customers to the merchant’s preferred choice, but they should also
ultimately honor the consumer’s choice.


MasterCard plans on actively participating in the consultation process
and will evaluate the financial, operational, and market impact of the
proposed Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Card Industry in
Canada. Announced by the Minister of Finance, the Code is being marketed
to merchants nationwide as designed to ensure merchant choice, enhanced
competition and greater transparency in a marketplace dominated by only
a few large companies, allowing merchants to choose the least expensive
method for processing on each transaction and to have complete choice on
which credit and/or debit products to, or not to, offer. Mastercard,
however, stresses the legislation runs counter to offering and operating
a reliable, efficient, convenient, and secure payment system in an
already competitive market.