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 A maximum of $400 daily can be withdrawn by ATM but a $2.50 fee applies, plus any applicable surcharges, for each transaction.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
New research shows that rising rates, an appreciating housing market and the recently passed Jobs Act may set the stage for a large increase in issuance of home equity lines of credit. Fitch Ratings says the Jobs Act, which went into effect on January 1st, has opened the door for HELOC securitizations. The Jobs Act addresses the revolving nature of a HELOC that allows borrowers to draw on their lines, after the loan has been securitized.
Cygnus eTransactions Group has launched a new mobile ticketing system, marketed under the brand name “ceWireless”. Ticket reservations and credit card transactions are processed in real-time, with connectivity to Cygnus’ data center provided by WiFi, Bluetooth or GPRS. Consumers can collect their tickets immediately at one of 12 conveniently located ticketing kiosks marketed under the brand name ceOsk. Cygnus processes sales and payments for its customers’ wholesale and retail channels.
Scanecotech AS has come up with a biometric card that has an embedded fingerprint scanner and that requires two fingerprints to activate the card at the point of sale. With the new “Scancotech” card the recognition of the fingerprint is performed on the card itself, not by an external database. The recognition of two fingers is to ensure that the user can use the card, even if an injury is sustained to one finger. If robbed, the card can be locked in active mode and the robber will not know which finger was selected for activation. Depending on issuer specifications, more than one set of card data may be contained on the card. Subsequent to activation, the user selects which card data he wants to transmit, thus eliminating the need for carrying more than one card. You can for example have your credit card, company access, etc. on just the one card. The battery life allows a minimum of 2,000 activations or about two years of use for most consumers.
HSBC has launched its “Take 3 Months Off” promotion to both new and existing cardholders who transfer their credit card balance
from other banks to a credit card from HSBC. HSBC is charging a 0% interest on balance transfers for three months. In addition, the card will be fee free for the first year, with cardholders receiving “Air Miles” on the transferred balance. HSBC Bank Middle East Limited has 29 branches throughout the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Autonomous Area, including an offshore banking unit in Bahrain.
American Express today announced the addition of Duke University Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (a.k.a. Coach K) to its global card brand campaign, “My life. My cardSM.” The “My life. My card.” campaign is the company’s first ever umbrella campaign to support all issuers of American Express-branded cards. American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, network, and financial services provider founded in 1850.
Non-farm payroll employment increased by 262,000 in February and the unemployment rate edged up to 5.4 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Job growth occurred in both goods-producing and service-providing industries. A quick review of the report reveals the following:
– Both the number of unemployed persons, 8.0 million, and the unemployment rate, 5.4 percent, returned to their December levels after dipping in January.
– The number of long-term unemployed–those unemployed for 27 weeks and over–remained at 1.6 million.
– Total employment was about unchanged at 140.1 million,seasonally adjusted. The employment-population ratio–the proportion of the population age 16 and over with jobs–was little changed over the month at 62.3 percent.
– Over the year, the number of persons who held more than one job increased by 432,000 to 7.7 million, not seasonally adjusted. These multiple jobholders represented 5.5 percent of total employment in February, up from 5.3 percent a year earlier.
– Construction employment rose by 30,000 in February. Since its most recent low point in March 2003, the industry has added 458,000 jobs.
– Manufacturing added 20,000 jobs, with motor vehicles and parts accounting for about half of the job gain. While total manufacturing employment edged up over the year, it has shown little net change since mid-2004.
– Employment in a number of service-providing industries grew over the month. Professional and business services employment expanded by 81,000 in February. Within this sector, sizable increases occurred in employment services (38,000), services to buildings and dwellings (14,000), and architectural and engineering services (7,000). Within employment services, temporary help services added 30,000 jobs in February and 207,000 jobs over the year.
– Retail trade employment increased by 30,000 in February, with small gains distributed throughout this industry. Over the year, retail trade has added 135,000 jobs. Wholesale trade employment was essentially flat in February; employment in the industry has been trending upward, however, and has grown by 94,000 since its most recent low in August 2003.
– Within the financial activities sector, employment growth continued in credit intermediation and related activities. The industry added 11,000 jobs in February, with commercial banks accounting for about 5,000 of the gain.
– Health care employment rose by 23,000 over the month. Since February 2004, this industry has gained 262,000 jobs. Over the month, employment increased in ambulatory health care services (12,000) and in hospitals (6,000).
– In the leisure and hospitality sector, food services and drinking places added 27,000 jobs in February. Over the year, leisure and hospitality employment increased by 268,000, with strong gains in both food services and accommodations.
– The average workweek for production or nonsupervisory workers on private, non-farm payrolls was unchanged in February, at 33.7 hours, seasonally adjusted. The manufacturing workweek declined by 0.2 hour to 40.5 hours, the same level as in November and December.
– Average hourly earnings of production or nonsupervisory workers on private, non-farm payrolls were unchanged over the month at $15.90, seasonally adjusted. This followed a 5-cent increase in January. Average weekly earnings also were unchanged in February at $535.83. Over the year, average hourly earnings grew by 2.5 percent and average weekly earnings increased by 2.2 percent.
A new study has found that consumers are holding $9 billion in unredeemed value on gift cards received during the holidays. The research also found that gift cards generated about $18 billion in retail sales during December and January. According to the report by Deloitte & Touche, adults received 3.2 gift cards during the holiday season just ended, compared to 2.5 one-year ago. This year’s 3.2 cards had a total face value of $142.98. More than six out of ten gift cards received by adults had been fully or partially redeemed by the end of January. General purpose, or bank-issued gift cards, were the type most likely to have been used by the end of January. Nearly three-quarters of these cards have already been fully or partially redeemed. Deloitte & Touche said that if consumers continue to spend unredeemed cards in a similar fashion as they did in December and January — that is, some consumers purchase more than the face value of their cards — then the unredeemed gift cards of $9 billion could have the potential to add as much as $13 billion to retail sales.
GIFT CARD TYPE RECEIVED
General Purpose: 10%
Personal Service: 5%
Internet Site: 5%
Source: Deloitte & Touche
Updated figures from the “Chip and PIN” program show that it reached all of its 2004 roll-out targets for upgrading cardholders and businesses. For 2005, the program expects to complete its roll-out to all 42 million cardholders and 860,000 tills. At the end of 2004, 36 million cardholders and 688,000 tills were upgraded to “Chip and PIN.” Last year’s target was 35 million cardholders and 636,000 tills. Since its roll-out began in October 2003, 76.8 million “Chip and PIN” cards have been issued. The total includes 31.4 million “Chip and PIN” credit cards and 45.4 million “Chip and PIN” debit cards. There are 122 million total cards in the country. The program says 48% of credit or debit card transactions per day are now verified by PIN.
VeriFone has introduced the “Omni 7000LE” payment system for multi-lane retailers. The Omni 7000LE provides a compelling baseline POS solution for multi-lane retailers with an 8-line display, ATM-style keypad, and multiport serial cable interface. It accommodates a complete selection of payment and value-added applications and provides the same stringent security protections as the module Omni 7000MPD and Omni 7100MPD. The Omni 7000MPD was an industry-first modular payment POS solution supporting debit, credit, signature capture, smart cards and advanced USB and Ethernet connectivity.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.4% in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Job growth continued in several service-providing industries. The number of long-term unemployed–those unemployed 27 weeks and over–was about unchanged over the month.
The Office of Fair Trading says MasterCard’s multilateral interchange fees applicable to UK domestic transactions have infringed competition law. The OFT believes that the agreement leads to
an unduly high fee being paid to card issuing banks on every such
transaction with the cost passed on to retailers and ultimately to consumers. MasterCard originally notified the UK Domestic Rules to the OFT for consideration as to whether they infringed the Competition Act and, if so, whether an individual exemption could be granted. As of
1 May 2004, as a result of changes to the Competition Act, the notification has lapsed. The investigation, however, continues as
the OFT believes the agreement has an anti-competitive effect. The OFT has also launched an investigation into the agreement on the
multilateral interchange fees applicable to UK transactions using VISA