BUSIEST DAY

New data show Canadians used their debit cards for 15.9 million transactions on December 23rd. According to INTERAC, that represents an increase over the 15.6 million transactions reported on December 21st, 2007, last season’s busiest holiday shopping day of the year. INTERAC statistics show that Canadians also power-shopped during the final 2008 pre-holiday period, swiping their cards nearly 40 million times between December 21st and December 23rd. INTERAC also reports that Canadians spent $219 million fare at grocery stores on December 23rd; $180.6 million in specialty clothing stores; $121.5 million in department stores; $64 million at gas stations; $30.8 million for restaurants/bars/fast food purchases; and $64.9 million for beer/liquor/wine purchases.

MINT 2008

Prepaid provider Mint Technology has released results for year ended
August 31, 2008. Mint reported a net loss of
$2,790,745.00, down significantly from a net loss of $5,003,496.00 for the
period of August 31, 2007. The net loss reduction is due to a number of
factors, primarily a reorganization of the business since the new Board of
Directors was appointed in March 2008. Mint has taken a number of steps to
establish new projects while continuing the successful MuchMusic program. Other operational highlights include
a new contract signed with Transguard Group, U.A.E to manage prepaid payroll cards; a new contract
signed with Yep! Mobile, a Montreal based
mobile media company to provide prepaid cards through Facebook Platform applications targeted at the youth phenomenon of “social
gaming”; entered into an agreement with Silverback Media PLC to introduce
mobile technology for financial payments for existing MuchMusic MasterCard holders;
entered into an agreement with IMT Cards LLC for IMT to exclusively
manage Mint’s prepaid debit card programs in the United Kingdom and
UAE. Mint is in advanced stage negotiations for contracts with other
groups in Canada, United Kingdom and the U.A.E to roll out new
prepaid card programs

GIFT CARD PRIMER

The Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services’
Consumer Protection Branch reminds consumers that the expiry dates on
gift cards issued on or after October 1, 2007,
fees or deductions from a gift card’s value and expiry dates on mall
gift cards issued as of September 1, 2008 are
banned and there are limits on administrative fees. Canadians spend
about $1.26 billion on gift cards during the
holiday with 82% of Canada’s largest retailers offering gift cards.

HORIZONPLUS PAYROLL CARD

Benefit and payroll provider Peopledge has introduced the “HorizonPlus
Prepaid MasterCard “payroll card program
The program is optional for employees and they can choose to have some,
or all, of their payroll posted electronically to their personal MasterCard
card. The process is simple and secure – funds are transferred to the
card via the standard direct credit process or by file transfer to a
secure web
browser. Once funds are loaded, the employees receive a customized
update and have immediate access to them no matter where they may be on
payday. It can be used to withdraw cash at any ATM that displays the
Cirrus Acceptance Mark.

EXTRICATION INCARCERATION

The Competition Bureau announced that Lloyd Prudenza has been sentenced
to 15 years in
jail by The U.S. Federal Court in the Southern District of Illinois for
his part in a cross-border deceptive
telemarketing scheme that defrauded close to 40,000 consumers.
Prudenza, Dalglish and Anderson were the principal operators behind
First Capital Consumers Group, which defrauded vulnerable American
consumers who had poor credit histories.
Working out of boiler rooms in Toronto in 2001-2002, telemarketers
targeted U.S.
residents, claiming they had been approved for a MasterCard or Visa
credit card. The victims were required to pay a one-time processing fee
(approximately $200 U.S.) prior to receiving one or both cards, but
never received a valid credit card. This deceptive telemarketing
operation generated approximately $8 million U.S. Prudenza, Dalglish and
Anderson were arrested following an investigation
led by the Competition Bureau. They were charged with offences under the
Competition Act and the Criminal Code, including: deceptive
telemarketing; conspiracy to commit an indictable offence; fraud; and
possession of property obtained by crime. Earlier this year, Dalglish
was sentenced to 19 years and seven months
in prison, and Anderson was sentenced to 23 years and four months, for
their roles in this scheme. All three individuals were jointly ordered
to pay over $5 million U.S. in restitution to the victims.

CRFA & PM

The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices
Association (CRFA) strongly supports Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s
recommendation to the Prime Minister to limit credit and debit processing
fees and called on the government to provide oversight of the fees
that credit card companies are charging merchants. Every time a restaurant
operator accepts payment via credit card, the banks and credit card
companies charge the restaurant a processing fee. While other countries
have taken measures to regulate these fees,
Canada has yet to do so and merchants pay among the highest
interchange fees in the world. Government intervention would provide
much-needed benefit
to all sectors of the economy that accept payment by credit card.

MINT & SILVERBACK

Prepaid product provider Mint Technology has entered into an agreement with
Silverback Media to introduce mobile payments. Mint’s customers
will initially have the ability to load their prepaid MasterCard or check
their balance using their mobile phone – easily and effortlessly.
Ultimately, the collaboration will result in the rollout of other mobile capabilities.
Silverback will provide the technology to manage all aspects of the mobile
connectivity and user-experience. As a MasterCard Member Service Provider, Mint works with business
partners to customize prepaid credit card programs that are tailored to meet a
company and its card holder’s needs.

OXFORD JV

Oxford Investments Holdings has entered into a
joint venture with a leading e-commerce payment services provider.
Oxford Investments is concentrating its
business around its “FocusKard” suite of products that provides a comprehensive card payment solution meshed with a
user-friendly e-wallet for e-commerce businesses.

WOMEN & FINANCES

A new survey commissioned by State Farm found that even though 51% of
women ages 25-65 are concerned about their financial future,
only 19% have reported making major changes to their
financial planning. Thirty-one percent conducted research, but
ultimately didn’t do anything
differently, and 38% only made small changes with little or no impact
on short- or long-term financial performance, such as moving money from
checking to savings accounts. When women look for financial guidance,
they don’t always seek out
expert advice. The survey also found that 18% turn to their parents ,
15% to friends and 12% to spouses for financial advice and may not be as
likely to seek the guidance of professionals like insurance agents (7%) or
accountants (5%). More than 42% find going to the dentist less
excruciating than talking to their spouses about their daily finances
and 32%of women report only having
enough money in their savings to cover one month or less of expenses.
While 79% women feel it’s important to be adequately prepared for the
future; however, 38% suspect they’re falling short,
worried that they haven’t done enough to secure their financial futures.

EBS & TRANSNET

IP-based payment solution provider Precidia Technologies announced that
its TransNet POS system will
be implemented by Emerald Business Systems as a solution for EBS’ retail
clients.
EBS customers can integrate secure payment functionality with a POS
device, PC or application.
TransNet can route transactions to multiple processors by card type or
BIN range, with no extra costs or difficulty. In addition, TransNet
offers management tools and capabilities not available with any other
solution, including remote application updates and transaction logging.
With transactions removed from the POS system and housed instead on the
POSLynx220™ payment router, TransNet also offers the industry’s most
comprehensive approach to cardholder data security. TransNet can be
integrated with an existing user interface or can operate with its own
user-friendly Virtual Terminal (TransNet-VT).

PAPERLESS SCOTIABANK

Scotiabank has signed up its one millionth paperless customer. The
Bank embarked on its paperless banking campaign in 2006 and Scotiabank’s
paperless banking option provides customers with Scotia
OnLine transaction histories of up to 18 months, as well as free
electronic images of cheques cleared within 90 days. Scotia Online
customers can sign up anytime by selecting the “Change Recordkeeping
Option,” or by calling 1-800-4-SCOTIA . Earlier in 2008, Scotiabank
introduced a new Environmental Paper Policy,
detailing the Bank’s commitment to further integrating environmental
considerations into its purchasing decisions, setting a reduction target
for paper use and expanding recycling programs in its international
operations. The new paper policy expands Scotiabank’s conversion to the
use of products certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.

YOUTH INVEST

The MasterCard Foundation and Mennonite
Economic Development Associates (MEDA) have established “Youth Invest”,
a $5 million program to create
inclusive financial services and education for youth in Morocco and
Egypt. The five-year program will enable microfinance
institutions to develop and test innovative products, reaching
approximately 50,000 people between
the ages of 15 and 24, especially those living in rural areas. MEDA
will partner with leading microfinance institutions in both
countries to study the needs of employed as well as unemployed youth,
and to design appropriate
financial products, such as savings for education or loans to start a
small business. The program will also provide youth-specific services,
including financial and business-related training to develop youth
entrepreneurship skills.