Payoneer Powers the Avangate MasterCard

Reseller management solution provider Avangate and NY-based prepaid card
service Payoneer have teamed to offer the “Avangate Prepaid MasterCard”.
The Avangate Prepaid MasterCard is particularly appealing to software
vendors and affiliates who otherwise are subject to high bank fees and
lengthy delays when receiving payments by wire transfer. The Avangate
Prepaid MasterCard allows international vendors and affiliates to spend
or withdraw cash in local currency at favorable exchange rates, round
the clock. Payoneer is a registered MSP with MasterCard Worldwide, and
an approved partner of Royal Bank of Scotland, and First Bank of Delaware.

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NRF Releases Best Practices for PCI

As expected the National Retail Federation released the first installment of “Best Practices for PCI” for retailers. Developed with
PCI Knowledge Base, the information is based on 300+ hours of anonymous interviews with key retail executives and other industry leaders. Among the 25 best practices cited in the first installment is the use of tokenization solutions to centralize card data and reduce the number of systems in PCI scope; training for retailers to conduct their own self-assessment to reduce costs and drive compliance toward a risk-based model; and implementing low-cost, consistent service provider security evaluations to manage the security risk of outsourcing. Among companies interviewed: BJ’s Wholesale Club, Yum! Brands, Saks, Burlington Coat Factory, IBM, Microsoft, and PCMS. The “PCI Best Practices” will be available on the NRF and PCI Knowledge Base websites to members.

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BIRLS & MAYORS

TD Retail Card Services has acquired the private label credit card
program of Montreal-based Birks & Mayors
Inc., a leading operator of luxury jewelry stores in Canada and the U.S.
Under the agreement, TD will
direct all facets of the program for the 37 Birks stores, which are
located in major metropolitan markets across Canada and include six
flagship locations in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and
Vancouver. The Birks card can also be used for online purchases on the
retailer’s website, www.birks.com.
Following the move to TD Retail Card Services, Birks cardholders will
continue to be able to avail themselves of a number of financing
options, including interest-free and low-interest offerings, as well as
a customer loyalty rewards program and a variety of special incentives
and services. Through the program’s rewards feature, cardholders will continue to earn
gift certificates equal to a percentage of their total annual purchases.
Additionally, cardholders will continue to enjoy such benefits as free
jewelry cleaning, gift certificates on their birthday, free deliveries,
free engraving of up to 10 characters with any purchase of $200 or more,
and advance notice of all Birks special events, promotions and sales.

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TALF – Stimulus for ABS; Not a Replacement

The consensus is building that the “Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility” may be an important catalyst for re-invigorating the dormant U.S. asset-backed securities market for credit card issuers. Fitch says that if “TALF” successfully allows institutions to issue ABS on a cost-effective basis, it will lessen pressures on liquidity and may serve to stabilize the credit quality of certain financial institutions.
While “TALF” does appear to have the potential to jump start the consumer ABS market it is a temporary facility and not a replacement for a fully functioning securitization market, says Fitch. Real value will come if “TALF” serves to stimulate conventional activity in the ABS market over the longer term. Under the “TALF” program, the Federal Reserve has agreed to purchase up to $200 billion in three year, non-recourse loans secured by eligible ‘AAA’ ABS securities. Initially, TALF will include auto, student loans, credit cards, and small business ABS.

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ClearPoint to Promote Early Debt Action

VA-based ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions will run PSAs to urge
consumers to take early action with credit card debt problems.
Public service announcements featuring Laurie, a ClearPoint client who
sought credit counseling to help her pay down thousands in credit card
debt, will run until mid-May in thousands of buses in 14 major urban
centers, including Portland, Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis, Raleigh,
Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, Washington, Richmond, Newark,
Philadelphia, Manhattan and Boston. The announcements direct consumers
to a blog and message board hosted on www.repaydebt.org. ClearPoint
Credit Counseling Solutions, Inc. is the trade name of
ClearPoint Financial Solutions, a national 501c3 nonprofit consumer
credit counseling agency and is a system-wide member of the Better
Business Bureau (BBB), a member of
the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and a National
Intermediary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
ClearPoint’s mission is consumer health through financial education.

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Industry Braces for Q4 Gloom & Doom Reports

Fourth quarter earnings reports from major credit card issuers will begin releasing tomorrow and it promises to be a very ugly picture based on ABS performance and issuer metrics reported during the final three months of 2008. Chase will release fourth quarter earnings tomorrow morning and Capital One will release its December metrics tomorrow. Next week, BofA will release its fourth quarter report on January 20th AM, followed on January 22nd by Citi in the morning and Capital One in the afternoon. American Express has not announced a firm date but historically releases the last week of January. Visa will report its fiscal first quarter 2009 financial results on Wednesday, February 4th. On Thursday, February 5th MasterCard will release its fourth-quarter and full-year 2008 financial results. For the latest details on other issuer fourth quarter performance visit CardData ([www.carddata.com](http://www.carddata.com)).

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Pendum Expands/Upgrades its ATM Support

ATM provider Pendum will upgrade its Illinois ATM tech center and its
Colorado call center. Plans for the new facilities focus on enhancing “The Value of ONE,”
Pendum’s service mark, which captures the company’s ability to provide a
seamless combination of ATM sales, maintenance and armored cash
services. The new flagship ATM tech center in Illinois will serve as a
hi-tech
training and support hub for Pendum’s service technicians nationwide.
The new armored location will be a fully operational state-of-the-art
vault facility delivering armored service to customers in the area. The
completed facilities will be in close proximity, allowing more
integrated collaboration between Pendum’s armored and maintenance teams,
as well as convenient visits from customers who wish to tour both buildings.
The expanded call center will be the centerpiece of Pendum’s
Denver-based corporate headquarters. The larger facility and technology
upgrades will
improve Pendum’s ability to communicate with customers quickly and
effectively. The centralized location will also enable consistent
training of call center personnel.

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Final 08 Holiday Tally Worse Than Expected

Bricks and clicks retailers faced the most challenging sales environment in years for a holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation reports that holiday sales declined 2.8% in 2008, weaker than its projected -2.2% forecast. It represents the first decline in holiday sales since NRF started forecasting and tracking the numbers in 1995.
Retail industry sales for December (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) declined 2.2% unadjusted over last year and decreased 1.4% seasonally adjusted from November. November sales were revised down to a 3.4% decline unadjusted year-over-year from the original reported 2.2%. December retail sales released today by the U.S. Commerce Department show total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) decreased 2.7% seasonally adjusted from last month and dropped 7.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

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Plastic Jungle Names a New CEO

Web-based gift card exchange service Plastic Jungle has hired Gary
Briggs, previous with eBay, as its new CEO.Briggs most recently served
as Chief Marketing Officer for eBay North America, where he also held
several executive positions including vice president and country
manager, eBay Canada (www.ebay.ca) and vice
president, consumer marketing at eBay.com. During his tenure at eBay,
Briggs led the brand, advertising, consumer research, promotion and
entertainment marketing efforts for the company, where he earned
Brandweek’s “Marketer of the Year” award in 2003, and was also on the
“Best of 2003” lists of USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and
Advertising Age. Before joining eBay, Briggs was one of the founders and
Chief Marketing
Officer of OurHouse.com and was Director of
Worldwide Brand Strategy for IBM Corporation, where he was responsible
for the company’s brand positioning and cross-corporate marketing
integration and co-authored the marketing strategy for the company’s
“e-business” campaign.

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