Small Business Owners’ Confidence Sinks

Small business owners’ economic confidence took a sharp drop in March. The “Discover Small Business Watch” dipped to 77.8, a 13.1-point decrease from February, and nearly 40 points lower than a year earlier. More then three-fourths of small business owners feel that economic conditions in the U.S. are getting worse. Nearly half of small business owners say they see economic conditions for their businesses getting worse over the next six months, up from 34% in February. This is the lowest level of confidence expressed by owners regarding their prospects during the 20 months. About 47% say they have experienced cash flow issues over the last 90 days, a slight increase from 43% in February.

Discover Small Business Watch
Mar 07: 117.7
Apr 07: 110.3
May 07: 110.0
Jun 07: 102.5
Jul 07: 107.3
Aug 07: 102.4
Sep 07: 99.2
Oct 07: 96.8
Nov 07: 93.2
Dec 07: 92.7
Jan 08: 86.3
Feb 08: 90.9
Mar 08: 77.8
Source: Discover Business Card

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Financial Literacy Rally is Slated

Cambridge Credit Counseling is hosting a “Learn Now or Pay Later” financial literacy rally at the MA-based Basketball Hall of Fame. More than 300 students from 10 Springfield, MA area schools will participate in a variety of activities designed to educate them about personal finance. In addition to trivia games that focus on Cambridge’s Net Gain curriculum, participants will hear former NBA player Donny Marshall speak about the importance of making good financial decisions. Cambridge, the Hall of Fame, and USA TODAY have collaborated on the Net Gain program, which is based on articles appearing in USA TODAY’s newspaper and on the “Learn Now or Pay Later” curriculum developed by Cambridge’s education division. Through the Net Gain program, students learn about a variety of financial topics, including credit cards, the importance of building wealth, checking accounts, and credit scores.

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Chockstone Makes SingleSwipe Available

OR-based Chockstone has made available its “SingleSwipe” payment-card Loyalty Identification Program, allowing card providers to offer more customer savings and rewards without the need to issue a new card. Compatible with American Express, Discover, MasterCard and VISA, the “SingleSwipe” identification program allows card companies and merchants to link loyalty programs to already existing customer card accounts, subsequently giving access to the merchant’s rewards, promotional offers and savings. This will save the company money and the customer space in his/her wallet. Chockstone provides its loyalty marketing and technology services at 46,000 merchant locations around the country.

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USPTO Grants TransUnion a HRCP Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted TransUnion a patent for its “Healthcare Revenue Cycle Platform” (HRCP) Healthcare Financing Method. The financial assistance program was designed to cover treatment for the uninsured through automated eligibility, performing calculations based on patient information and requirements to pre-qualify applicants and family members. Moreover, HRCP verifies patient identity/eligibility, identifies opportunities for assistance, provides audit-ready documentation of charity care and determines patient elligibility status for charity care during each visit. TransUnion employs over 2,600 in more than 25 countries around the world.

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Discover Completes Goldfish Sale to Barclays

Initiated February 7th, Discover has completed the sale of the Goldfish credit card and its 1.7 million Goldfish and affinity card accounts to Barclays in the amount of $70 million cash. The portfolio in question has $3.9 billion in receivables, includes the Goldfish brand and its operating facilities. Barclays reported an after-tax non-cash impairment charge of $279 million in 4Q07 and recorded a loss from discontinued operations of Goldfish of $158 million in 1H08, including a loss from net assets to fair value of $172 million and net income from operations of $14 million.

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Rewards Programs Shape Consumer Behavior

A new report has found that while 62% of cardholders are either non-participants, inactive or, at best, passive participants, rewards programs shape the behaviors of a significant 38% of the U.S. population. Aite Group says that rewards are an increasingly critical aspect of how financial institutions and merchants compete for consumer business. also, merchants should partner with financial institutions and card networks to take advantage of their analytics and marketing firepower. The report is based on an online survey of 500 consumers conducted in January.

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Citi Reorganizes its Credit Card Business

Citi announced it has consolidated its U.S. and international credit card businesses into a single global business. The separate unit will be led by Steven Freiberg, CEO of Global Cards. The Company also formed a Consumer Banking unit. Terri Dial will join Citi as Global Head of Consumer Strategy and CEO of Consumer Banking in North America. Citi also has established a regional structure giving the leaders of the geographic regions the authority to make decisions on the ground. These geographic regions are each led by a single chief executive officer who reports to CEO Vikram Pandit. Asia Pacific, including Japan, will be led by Ajay Banga. Western Europe, Middle East and Africa will be headed by William Mills. The Central and Eastern European region will be led by Shirish Apte. Manuel Medina Mora will continue to lead Mexico and Latin America. The Company says the changes will make Citi a simpler, leaner and more efficient organization.

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Issuer Decision Management Practices Studied

Commissioned by Fair Isaac, the latest TowerGroup Survey has been conducted to assess decision management capabilities of credit card issuers and consumer lenders compared to others in the credit industry. The findings of the survey reaffirm the need for balancing risk with growth and determine ways lenders/issuers make decisions regarding fraud management, collections and risk at Fair Issac’s “2008 North American InterACT customer conference forum”. Bringing together businesses, regulators, and experts from various sectors, the forum allows participants to network with Fair Isaac advisors and industry peers from over 30 countries. Fair Isaac provides management and decision services to businesses clients in nearly 80 countries.

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Fiserv Launches CheckFree Biller Direct HV

Fiserv has launched “CheckFree Biller Direct HV” to enable billing organizations to optimize electronic billing and payment processes. CheckFree Biller Direct HV enables companies to fully integrate electronic billing and payment services with their current website into a branded, centralized console that makes it easier and more convenient for consumers to view and pay their bills online, including more prominent options for paperless billing, while helping companies drive increased adoption of the service.. By providing a consistent and branded online bill payment experience, billers can improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs through increased utilization of the service and higher paperless adoption rates. CheckFree Biller Direct HV organizes electronic billing and payment features into a branded, centralized console that makes it easier and more convenient for consumers to view and pay their bills online, including more prominent options for paperless billing, while helping companies drive increased adoption of the service.

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VERSAPAY & ALBERTA

VersaPay has partnered with the Alberta Chambers of Commerce(ACC) to
provide its member businesses with discounted acceptance rates of VISA,
Mastercard and INTERAC Direct Payment processing. Of the 22,000 businesses
and 127 boards, preferred rates on VersaCard’s stored-value card, gift
cards, point of sale terminal fees and the mentioned processing fees will
be provided to those members in good standing. VersaPay provides hardware,
technology, Infrastructure, support services, EMV compliant point of sale
terminals, payment solutions and payment platform integration to Canadian
retail businesses while the Alberta Chambers of Commerce harbors strength
in numbers for advocacy and networking opportunities of its members.

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Jack Henry Introduces Centurion jVault

Jack Henry and Associates has introduced its “Centurion jVault” disaster recovery data vaulting solution. Centurion jVault is an online data backup solution that enables financial institutions to store critical IBM System i-based data at a secure, off-site location. Centurion jVault mitigates inherent risks associated with physically transporting tapes from one location to another, complies with related regulatory requirements, and provides financial institutions with a superior audit trail for all backed-up data. Jack Henry & Associates is a provider of computer systems and ATM/debit card/ACH transaction processing services primarily for financial services organizations.

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CIBC VISA Cards Add Chip Technology for a Pilot

Canada’s CIBC has added chip technology to its VISA cards. CIBC Visa cardholders in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario began receiving their chip enabled credit cards as part of an industry market trial. CIBC debit cards will be joining the market trial in the spring. During 2008, CIBC plans to start to roll out chip credit and debit cards to all customers. Already, all CIBC bank machines are chip enabled. This past year CIBC also introduced free value-added safety and security features on all CIBC credit cards through “CIBC CreditSmart,” which helps clients monitor changes to their credit reports, be aware of potential fraudulent uses of their credit cards, and deal with identity theft. “CIBC CreditSmart” is unique to the marketplace and CIBC cardholders have responded positively to the offer.

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