U.K. Issuers Tighten Card Market Footprint

In an effort to manage credit card risk, Royal Bank of Scotland has
retreated from the U.K. national marketplace to limit new credit cards
to existing customers only. According to CardFlash International, the
move by RBS mirrors a similar move by HSBC earlier this year to contain
losses in the wake of the recession. Consumers applying for an RBS or
NatWest credit card must have a current checking account with one of the
banks as of October 1st. A mortgage or savings account does not qualify.
RBS has about seven million credit card accounts. Bank of England data
show the average credit card rate is currently 18.13% in the UK.

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Two-Thirds of Holiday Shoppers Cut-Back

MA-based Burst Media has released the results of its 2009 holiday
spending outlook survey that reveals nearly 63% of consumers will cut back.
Although consumers plan to hold tight with
their spending this holiday season, 85.3% of respondents will shop
online. Only 14.6%
of respondents expect to spend more this holiday season than they did in
2008, while one third (32.7%) expect to spend less and 30.1% expect to
spend about the same as they did last year. Interestingly, women will be
more frugal than men this holiday season with 38.1% planning to spend
less on gifts and entertainment, compared to 27.3% of all men. All
income segments will trim holiday spending this year with 29.5% of
respondents reporting household income of less than $35,000
cutting holiday spending, as will 46.3% of households
reporting HHI of $35,000-$75,000, and 31.3% of
households reporting HHI of $75,000 or more. Despite the fact that 63%
of consumers express concern over credit card
security when making an online purchase, 69.3% still
plan to make an online holiday purchase.

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NIC Expands Arkansas Card Tax Acceptance

The state of Arkansas and NIC is offering online tax payments via the
arkansas.gov website for residents of 31 counties.
Working in partnership with county tax collectors, the official state
Web site offers citizens the ability to pay
personal property and real estate tax payments with a credit card or
electronic check online, over the phone, or in person at their
Collector’s office. To use the online payment services, taxpayers may
enter the parcel
number provided on their tax statements or can search the database for
specific parcels. The property tax system guides the user through a
series of entry screens and provides a confirmation and printable
receipt page for recordkeeping. NIC is the nation’s leading provider
of official
government portals, online services, and secure payment processing
solutions.

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Visa Debit Card Advance Payments Approved

On October 2nd, the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of New York approved the Agreement To Prepay Future Payments At
A Discount between Lead Counsel and Visa U.S.A. Inc., dated August 31,
2009, whereby Visa will make a single payment of $682 million in
lieu of making its remaining four annual $200 million payments due
through 2012. Pursuant to the Prepayment Agreement, Lead Counsel expects
to receive Visa’s payment on October 5, and will thereafter be able to
make lump-sum distributions of the residual Visa payments instead of
making installment payments over the next four years of any residual
amounts.

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MULTOS & ABNOTE

The ABnote Group payment and government ID provider has joined the
MULTOS Consortium international blue chip organizations. The MULTOS
Consortium provides ongoing maintenance and development of the MULTOS
specification and reflects interests in telecommunications, e-commerce,
travel, entertainment, retail, media, and government. ABnote engages in
manufacturing, data preparation and personalisation of many MULTOS
applications, including “MChip4,” “Paypass,” “CAP,” “VSDC” and the
latest MasterCard “Integrated Chip Application” (MICA). New Jersey-based
ABnote operates through its subsidiary companies, ABnote North America,
ABnote South America, ABnote Europe, and ABnote Australasia.

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Credit Solutions Sets a New Monthly Record

Debt settlement provider Credit Solutions settled $23,353,425.15 in consumer debt during September 2009.
This resulted in a saving of $13,404,866 on 3,936
client accounts at a 42.6% average settlement offer percentage rate.
Credit Solutions act on consumers’ behalf,
negotiating directly with creditors to facilitate repayment of consumer
debts at a reduced percentage of the total owed. Upon completing a debt
settlement program, all of the consumers’ debts included in the program
are “settled,” or resolved with zero balances. Since its 2003 inception, Credit Solutions has assisted more than
250,000 U.S. clients in becoming debt-free, settling more than $1
billion total of consumer debt. Debt settlement increasingly offers
benefits to consumers as the most immediate form of debt relief
available in today’s tenuous economy.

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AMEX SHAKE-UP

American Express’ President has resigned and will leave the company early next year to explore a CEO opportunity elsewhere. With the departure of Alfred Kelly the Company announced several senior leadership and organizational changes. The company’s global consumer, small business and network businesses will report to Edward Gilligan, vice chairman. Mr. Gilligan had previously led the global B2B Group.
A new “Global Services” organization that includes company-wide customer service, technologies, operations, business processing and information management will report to Stephen Squeri, who has been promoted to group president. A new “Enterprise Growth” organization is being created to leverage existing assets, generate incremental fee revenue and drive the company’s entry into new payment areas and related businesses. A senior level executive from outside American Express is being recruited to head this organization. Judson Linville continues as president and CEO, U.S. Consumer Services, reporting to Mr. Gilligan. He is responsible for the consumer card, “Membership Rewards” and consumer travel businesses in the company’s largest market and for the prepaid card and travelers cheque businesses globally.

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Pre-Teens Taking Up Savings Programs

A new survey by U.S. Bank reveals that customers between 5-12 years old are focused on savings. U.S. Bank surveyed 1,500 of its customers between ages 5 to 12 who indicated that 30% are saving for college, and 15% saving for a car. The young savers are setting goals and socking away windfalls from birthdays and earnings from babysitting or other duties. About 100 of those U.S. Bank savers will be on their way to achieving their goal, as each will receive $100 from U.S. Bank by participating in its “What are Kids Savings For?” contest which ends at the end of October. U.S. Bank launched the program to make a lasting impression on its youngest customers, and has been featuring some of their responses on the bank’s website.

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WU & MAXIS

Western Union and Maxis Communications Berhad, Malaysia’s leading mobile
communications service provider, are launching a service by 2010 to
allow Maxis subscribers to send cross-border remittances directly from
their mobile phones. This would allow 11 million Maxis subscribers
across the Country to send funds from their mobile phones. Recipients
are allowed to pick up the funds in cash at more than 345,000 Western
Union Agent locations in 200 countries. The joint service will mark the
first time Western Union has enabled mobile money transfer transactions
from a mobile phone outside the United States. In 2008, more than US$6.4
billion (RM22.3 billion) in remittances was sent out of Malaysia, much
of which sent by an estimated 1.9 million foreign workers living in
Malaysia.

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Consumer Bankruptcy Filings Rising Quickly

The year-on-year growth in the number of U.S. consumer bankruptcy
filings picked up speed in September and represented the fourth highest
month since the 2005 reform laws. In September, filings rose at a 41%
annual clip, compared to a 24% annual pace in the prior month and 34% in
August. According to the American Bankruptcy Institute and the National
Bankruptcy Research, consumer filings totaled 124,790 in September,
compared to 119,874 in August and 88,663 in September 2008. Chapter 13
filings constituted 28% of all consumer cases in September, the same as
August. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, total
filings in the second quarter of this year hit 381,073, compared to
330,477 for the first quarter and 276,510 one-year ago. Bankruptcy
filings for the 12-month period ending June 30th, were up 35% over
bankruptcy filings for the 12-month period ending June 30th, 2008.
Consumer filings for the 12-month period ending June 30th, totaled
1,251,294, up 34% from the same period one-year ago. (CF Library 8/27/09)

BANKRUPTCY FILINGS
Sep 08: 88,663
Oct 08: 106,266
Nov 08: 99,925
Dec 08: 84,926
Jan 09: 88,773
Feb 09: 98,344
Mar 09: 121,413
Apr 09: 125,618
May 09: 124,838
Jun 09: 116,345
Jul 09: 126,434
Aug 09: 119,874
Sep 09: 124,790
Source: ABI/NBKRC; CardData.com

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VOUCHERSEEKER

Research shows 60% of consumers surveyed feel immediate purchasing
rewards are the most important aspect of a promotion, while 39% would be
interested in a price discount and 87% would switch from their usual to
receive a price discount promotion. Consumers are increasingly turning
to voucher code sites, such as VoucherSeeker.co.uk, as a way of saving
money, tapping discount codes, vouchers and promotional codes for money
off products instantly. This acts as an alternative to credit card
reward schemes. Cash back programs rose in popularity from 57% in 2007
and 61% in 2008 while the cash back reward was the most popular type of
rewards program across all age and affluence ranges, according to
research conducted by the TNS Consumer Credit Card Program Study and
Granby Marketing Services. Additional findings show, among those who do
not claim rewards on their credit and loyalty cards, 17% disclosed the
financial value of the rewards was too small, 7% simply could not be
bothered, 3% cited the length of the redemption process and 4% said it
was too difficult to redeem rewards earned.

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