Holiday Retail Sales Up 5%, Card Spending Up 9%

Retail spending on credit and debit cards for Friday and Saturday, November 28th and 29th, topped $6.6 billion. Americans pulled out major credit cards to charge more than $4.8 billion, and used off-line debit cards to charge $1.8 billion in holiday purchases. The estimates are based on data provided by VISA, which currently has a 42.5% share of the U.S. general purpose credit card market, and a 78.1% share of the U.S. off-line debit card market. VISA USA reported that overall spending on its credit and debit cards for Friday and Saturday, November 28th and 29th, exceeded $6.5 billion, a 12% gain over the same period last year. Retail spending, using VISA-branded card products, was up 9%, topping $3.4 billion for the two days. VISA also reported that debit card spending at retailers rose 15%, with a total of 25.7 million transactions for the two-day period, accounting for $1.4 billion in sales. Credit card spending at retailers with VISA-branded cards grew 6%, with more than $2.0 billion in volume for the same period. VISA also says the number of VISA e-commerce transactions increased 46%, generating nearly $338 million in volume, on Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile Wal-Mart reported that Friday sales increased 6.3% to a record $1.52 billion. ShopperTrak estimated that total retail sales for Friday hit $7.2 billion, a 4.8% gain over the same day a year ago.

BillMatrix Names Chief Technology Officer

Dallas-based BillMatrix has named Robert Stephens, formerly SVP and Director of Information Technologies at Kintetsu Global Information Technologies, as CTO. As Senior Vice President and Director of Information Technologies at Kintetsu Global Information Technologies, Stephens was responsible for the planning, design and deployment of information solutions across a global network of clients and employees at one of the world’s leading freight forwarding companies. Stephens held long-term executive leadership positions at Fritz Companies and Intertrans Corporation, leaders in the global freight industry. He was educated in computer science at the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas and Skyline CDC in Dallas, Texas. BillMatrix Corporation provides outsourced payment services for the nation’s largest companies using the latest automated consumer interface technologies.

ICBA Bancard Names David Hayes as Chairman

ICBA Bancard has elected David Hayes, president and CEO of Security Bank in Dyersburg, TN as chairman, and has elected new directors, including Stephen Stenehjem and Kerby Crowell. Additionally, Ken F. Parsons Sr., chairman of Venture Bank in Lacey, Wash., was re-elected as director of the Western region; Charles L. Saeman, president and COO of State Bank of Cross Plains in Cross Plains, Wis., as director of the Midwest region; Ronald F. Miller, chairman, president and CEO of Shenandoah Valley National Bank in Winchester, Va., as director of the Northeast region; and C.R. “Rusty” Cloutier, president and CEO of MidSouth Bank, N.A. in Lafayette, La., as director of the Southeast region.

VeriFone Snags Former Hypercom Sales SVP

VeriFone has hired Tom Veasey, an eleven-year veteran of Hypercom and its SVP of Sales, to join its North America sales team. At Hypercom, Veasey was primarily responsible for US processor sales, counting American Express, Concord EFS, First Data, Nova, and Vital among his customers. Verifone is recognized worldwide as the trusted leader in secure electronic payment technologies, provides expertise, solutions and services for today with a smart migration strategy for tomorrow.

QSR STV Cards Produce 15% Lift in Average Transactions

OR-based Chockstone reports that its stored value card platform for the QSR industry has produced a 14.5% lift in the average size of consumer transactions, and that QSR locations are experiencing a three- to four-times increase in gift card sales vs. paper gift certificate sales. Chockstone’s integrated platform, ChockPoint, enables retailers to combine payment, loyalty and promotional programs through a single consumer card. Chockstone retailers are experiencing a significant lift in consumer dollars as the transition is made from paper gift certificates to electronic gift-loyalty-marketing cards.

Digital Insight Completes Magnet Deal

Digital Insight has completed the acquisition of Magnet Communications for 1.45 million shares of its stock and $33.5 million in cash. Digital Insight announced its agreement to acquire Magnet on October 23, 2003. As previously announced, the acquisition is expected to be neutral to slightly accretive to non-GAAP pro forma earnings per share in 2004, excluding non-cash charges to amortize certain acquired intangible assets. The Magnet acquisition is not expected to have a material impact on Digital Insight’s previous guidance for non-GAAP pro forma earnings per share for the fourth quarter ending December 31, 2003.

CASH-BACK

Ryanair has added a cash-back feature to its co-branded VISA card. The “Ryanair.com VISA,” launched in February with MBNA Europe, will now offer up to 10% cash-back on purchases made with the card at participating retailers accessible through the Ryanair online shop. Merchants include: WHSmith, Allsports, Past Times, Thorntons, Toyworld, The Pier and The Perfume Shop.
The “Ryanair.com VISA” is available as a standard or gold credit card. Both cards enable users to earn a bonus flight with the purchase of 10 flights. The standard card carries an APR of 16.9% while the gold card carries an annual interest rate of 14.9%. The Ryanair credits program has been developed and is being run on behalf of Ryanair by the Irish-based marketing company Brandforce.

National Bread Maker Joins the Gift Card Craze

Comdata’s Stored Value Systems and SLC-based Gift Card Solutions have jointly signed Panera Bread to a contract to issue a private-label cash card. The St. Louis-based bakery-cafe operator will offer the new card in its 558 stores in 35 states. There are 149 company-owned and 409 franchised bakery cafes in its nationwide business. Panera has had a long-standing business relationship with GCS, as one of its first gift check clients before migrating to electronic cash cards through the SVS / GCS partnership. Comdata is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ceridian Corporation. Gift Card Solutions is a minority-owned marketing partner of Stored Value Systems.

Debit Card Exit Fee Dispute Enters the Courtroom

VISA and MasterCard squared-off yesterday before federal Judge Barbara S. Jones over VISA’s newly adopted “Settlement Service Fee” bylaw, which penalizes large debit card issuers for leaving VISA. In September, MasterCard decided to take VISA to federal court after VISA declined to act on its “cease and desist” letter. MasterCard says VISA is changing the rules mid-stream and bullying its members so it becomes virtually impossible for them to switch brands. VISA’s new bylaw imposes huge fines on the top VISA issuers if they switch to MasterCard and/or reduce their VISA debit volume. The “Settlement Service Fee” bylaw requires VISA top off-line debit card members, who switch to a competing off-line debit card, to pay a $20 million fine for each percentage point of lost VISA off-line debit volume. Following the recent settlement of the Wal-Mart litigation, VISA told its top 100 debit issuers that for the next 10 years, they would face significant fines, based on a share of VISA’s $2 billion settlement with the merchants, if they reduced their VISA debit volume from September 30, 2002 levels. Earlier this month VISA announced it will waive its the new bylaw for members switching to American Express or Discover. VISA says that MasterCard’s court motion to stop the exit fee bylaw has absolutely no merit and is purely an opportunistic move by MasterCard to recover from its missteps in the off-line debit card market over the past decade. VISA said MasterCard failed to see the coming explosion in off-line debit.

ACI Looks to Tap the Greek and Cypriot Banking Markets

ACI Worldwide has formed a new subsidiary in Athens to tap the potential in the Greek and Cypriot banking markets. The Company is already in discussions with the majority of the top tier banks in Greece including National Bank of Greece, EFG Eurobank Ergasias and Commercial Bank of Greece (CBG – Emporiki). The ACI subsidiary in Athens will provide maintenance support for local customers and undertake specific product development for the region. The subsidiary is supported by a 24-hour response team based at ACI’s EMEA headquarters near London, dedicated to providing support to customers across Europe. The new ACI subsidiary in Greece is the ninth regional operation set up by ACI Worldwide in EMEA. Other sites include Germany, Spain, Italy, Middle East (Bahrain), Moscow, South Africa, The Netherlands and the UK.