Consumer Confidence Dec Rebound is Short-Lived

The modest improvement in consumer confidence last month was short-lived as consumers’ appraisal of current business conditions is slightly less negative than in December, is more negative than a year ago. The “Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index,” which had improved moderately in December, gave back the gain in January. The Index now stands at 87.9, down from 90.6 in December. The “Expectations Index” declined to 69.6 from 75.8. The “Present Situation Index,” however, increased to 115.3 from 112.9 in December.

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Mobile Payments Gain Consumer Popularity

A new study sponsored by PSCU Financial Services, and conducted by Hitachi’s Dove Consulting, found that nearly two-thirds of study participants chose mobile banking and 30% chose mobile payment at the point-of-sale. Only a handful indicated they were excited about mobile person-to-person payments. Convenience is the most compelling feature of both mobile banking and mobile payment at the point-of-sale. Participants cited the ability to perform banking functions, such as check balances and pay bills, from anywhere without the need of a computer as the major convenience of mobile banking, and the prospect of no longer carrying a wallet as the major convenience of mobile payment at the point-of-sale. Conversely, participants indicated security and fraud were their main concerns regarding these mobile applications, wondering what would happen if their mobile devices were lost or stolen.

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BECU Expands with NCR’s SelfServ ATMs

WA-Based BECU Credit Union has purchased 50 of NCR’s “SelfServ” ATMs to provide customers with “No Envelope” deposit technology and for the implementation of NCR’s ATM “APTRA Edge” remote management solution, “Gasper Vantage”. The “Gasper Vantage” solution will be used to manage the Credit Union’s entire ATM network. NCR has designed “SelfServ” to provide users with convenience technology using image-based “Intelligent Deposit”. Over 4,700 NCR ATMs are deployed across North America and 30,000 are deployed worldwide while BECU provides membership to all Washington residents, has over 525,000 members and assets of more than $7.9 billion.

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NetWinner Selects Ecount for Rewards

NetWinner game site has chosen to implement Citi’s “Ecount” for reward fulfillment. “Ecount” will provide proprietary prepaid technology for convenient rewards in cash, delivered on a prepaid card, and is expected to increase customer acquisition. This has proven successful with 75% of redemptions recorded for the “NetWinner Prepaid MasterCard”, which is accepted anywhere MasterCard is, and can be continuously re-loaded with every additional reward.

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Speedway SuperAmerica Selects RBS Lynk

Marathon Oil’s subsidiary Speedway SuperAmerica has made the decision to implement Royal Bank’s “RBS Lynk” credit card processing solutions for pay-at-the-pump and in-store services. Speedway operates 1,600 gas and retail outlets in 9 states, serving nearly 2.4 million on a daily basis while RBS Lynk provides U.S. payment processing of electronic payment services.

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Business Owners Confidence Sinks to a New Low

Economic confidence among small business owners tumbled to an eighteen month low in January. Cash flow has dipped and spending on business development is down. The “Discover Small Business Watch” index dipped to 86.3, down more than six percentage points from December’s 92.7. The index is down a full 27 points than the same time 1 year ago. Discover also found that 74% of small business owners feel that economic conditions in the U.S. are getting worse, a jump from 65% who felt that way in December. About 44% said they have experienced cash flow issues over the last 90 days, also a slight increase from 42% in December, but significantly more than the 32% in January 2007.

Discover Small Business Watch
Jan 07: 114.3
Feb 07: 113.4
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
Source: Discover Business Card

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CONSUMER INTERNET SHOPPING

Nielsen Research has recently shown that over 85% of the global population
has used the Internet to make a purchase at one point or another, 50% of
Internet users have made an online purchase between December 2007 and
January 2008 and those whom participate in online shopping has increased to
875 million, 40% greater than the 2006 figure of 627 million. Moreover,
South Korea led with 99% of users having shopped on websites, followed by
97% of British and 97% of Germans. Correspondingly, South Korea led with
79% of users having shopped online since the beginning of December
followed by 76% of British. However, 67% of Swiss ranked third on the
global arena of consumers whom have shopped online since early December.
Among hot items, books were the most popular accounting for 41% of
purchases,
clothing accounting for 36% while Videos, DVDs and Games accounted for 24%.
Nielsen Research operates in over 100 countries, providing survey
research and
consulting services.

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OCC Demands Kill ADS-Blackstone Deal

Alliance Data Systems’ stock dropped nearly 40% this morning after Blackstone Group said it was backing out of a deal to acquire the payment card processor for more than $6 billion. Blackstone informed ADS that it does not anticipate the condition to closing the merger relating to obtaining approvals from the OCC will be satisfied. Blackstone’s notice stated that the OCC is “demanding that extraordinary measures be taken by ADS, Holdco and various Blackstone entities in connection with the Change in Control Notice” that “represent operational and financial burdens on ADS, Holdco and Blackstone that cannot be reasonably assumed.” Blackstone stated that it is unwilling to satisfy the requirements specified in the OCC letter. Blackstone also expressed its belief that alternative solutions that would be acceptable to Blackstone would not satisfy the OCC, and therefore that further negotiations with the OCC would be futile.

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DECEMBER VOLUME

Statistics New Zealand has released figures that show during December 2007, merchants processed 95 million electronic card
transactions for a total volume of NZ$2.6 billion. These findings were
fundamentally the same for November of 2007 and were compiled
with the help of New Zealand-based merchants to include all
card transactions processed within the country. Moreover, transactions
conducted by overseas card-holders in New Zealand are included while
transactions by New Zealand card-holders conducted overseas are
excluded.

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GSA SmartPay 2 Cards Coming in November

The U.S. GSA has announced that the DOD has chosen the GSA “SmartPay 2” program to serve 1.2 million DOD travel cardholders. The estimated value of DOD’s travel card order from “SmartPay 2” contractor Citibank South Dakota is $40 billion over 10 years, based on projected travel card spending. DOD’s Defense Travel Management Office’s (DTMO) order with “SmartPay 2” contractor Citibank signed January 14th, starts immediately. The goal is to activate the new DOD travel cards by November 30th. DTMO provides program management and oversight for DOD’s travel card users.

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PAYZONE & BLACKHAWK

The Payzone payments network and Blackhawk prepaid solutions have
signed collaborative agreements. With these developments, the
organizations plan to tap the European gift card market for the distribution
of Payzone products through the Blackhawk network and Blackhawk
products through Payzone retail outlets. This will support Blackhawk’s
European expansion of its prepaid and payments network to nearly
170,000 Payzone retail locations across the continent. The Blackhawk
Network is composed of 80,000 store fronts, targeting 165 million
consumers weekly while Payzone has operations in 21 countries across
Europe, processes over 630 million per annum with a value of
approximately EUR13 billion and operates a total of 240,000 points of
service.

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