AmEx Business Travel Sets a New Record

American Express Business Travel reports it has topped $470 million in signings from North America headquartered clients for the months of January and February. Companies include ABB Optical, Air Transport International LLC, Aramco Services Company, Barry-Wehmiller, Eaton Corporation, Gaylord Entertainment, Indalex Inc., KTM North America, Inc., Manpower Inc. and RazorGator among other leading brands. In addition, American Express Business Travel added more than 120 new clients during the January through February period.

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MC SMART CARDS 05

More than 45 million MasterCard branded smart cards are now in use in Asia/Pacific, compared 31.0 million in 2004 and 17.5 million in 2003. Since 2000, the number of MasterCard smart cards in the region has grown fifteen fold. MasterCard says over 95% of its current smart cards are EMV-compliant. Momentum was also achieved by the introduction of
MasterCard’s contactless payment program, “PayPass” in Asia/Pacific. Last year, “PayPass” pilot programs were introduced in Japan, Taiwan
and Thailand, in addition to the introduction of “PayPass” merchant
acceptance in Taiwan and Thailand. MasterCard also last year teamed with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to launch the first EMV-compliant, chip-based card in China. The introduction of the “Peony MasterCard” card marked an important milestone in the Chinese credit card industry, as ICBC became the first local bank to pioneer the shift to chip-based cards. In October, MasterCard and Kaohsiung City
Transportation Bureau, together with the consortium of industry players
for the Kaohsiung City Government Transportation Project announced a
pilot rollout of the “TaiwanMoney” card in Southern Taiwan. MasterCard together with Bank of the Philippine Islands unveiled the “BPI Express Credit Gold MasterCard” with the “PaySafe System” last year. Additionally, MasterCard joined forces with BankWest, part of HBOS Australia, to launch the first MasterCard-branded debit card in Australia.

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MasterCard Launches its FIFA World Cup Spot

MasterCard International has launched its “FIFA World Cup”-themed “Priceless” advertising campaign, entitled “Fever.” The spot shows how people from all walks of life are engulfed by the passion of supporting their countries’ teams. McCann Erickson filmed all real fans (no actors) from over 30 different nationalities in four continents during the making of the commercial. The “Fever” campaign recently debuted in France and will subsequently run in multiple languages in more than 30 countries worldwide. In host-market Germany, “Fever” will be represented in a national promotion, in-stadium at the venues and at various high profile FIFA-supported events including “FIFA Fan Fest.” In the U.S., the “Fever” ad campaign will start on May 22nd in both English and Spanish. The estimated cumulative audience for the “2006 FIFA World Cup” is expected to be more than 30 billion in a total of 213 countries during the 64 tournament matches.

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U.S. DOJ Clears Axalto-Gemplus Merger

The U.S. Department of Justice has raised no objection to the proposed transaction between Axalto and Gemplus. The companies are now concentrating efforts to obtain the remaining approvals and conditions for the transaction. The transaction was previously unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies and the required shareholders resolutions relating to the transaction have been approved by a vast majority of the shareholders.

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Fortrex Authorized by VISA as QDSC & QPASC

Maryland-based Fortrex has been authorized for the third consecutive year by VISA USA as a “Qualified Data Security Company” to provide merchants, service providers, and payment gateways with PCI-DSS report on compliance assessments. To meet the high-level qualification requirements, Fortrex had to apply for qualification in the program, provide documentation of financial stability, technical capability, and industry experience, certify individual employees to perform the assessments and execute an agreement with Visa governing performance.

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RBC Cash Index Sinks in March

After an upturn in February, consumer confidence dropped in March, reflecting the uncertainty American consumers have about future economic conditions, according to the most recent results of the “RBC CASH Index”, which shows a score of 86.2 for March, compared to 96.1 in February. Expectations for local economies have worsened. However, opinions regarding purchases remain stable with 38 per cent of those surveyed reporting they are more confident in making a major purchase like a home or a car and 45 per cent stating they are comfortable making other household purchases and confidence in job security has remained basically stable with 41 per cent of Americans reporting they are more confident about their job security than six months ago. As a result, the RBC Jobs Index for March stands at 118.5 – virtually unchanged from 119.3 in February.

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A Wave of PIN Block Card Fraud Emerges

A new wave of “PIN block” card fraud has forced several issuers, including Citibank, to replace debit cards. In “PIN block” schemes, hackers break into retailer servers and steal PIN blocks that represent encrypted PIN data (which, along with card numbers, is sent to processors that execute PIN debit transactions). The thieves also steal terminal keys used to encrypt PINs. These keys are typically stored on retailers’ terminal controllers. Armed with the “PIN block” and terminal encryption key, the thieves can determine a cardholder’s PIN, then create counterfeit cards that enable them to withdraw cash at ATM machines. In a recent scam, the thieves stole (likely from a retailer) magnetic-stripe data found on the back of ATM cards, which large banks typically validate. Gartner says payment vendors need to modify their software to make the storage of PINs, PIN blocks and cards’ magnetic-stripe data impossible. Also, regulators should modify “Regulation E,” loosening the consumer notification timing requirements so that consumers can get their money bank more easily.

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Axalto Financial Cards Up 2% in 05

Axalto reported that revenue for 2005 in the “Financial Cards” product line increased 2% to $200.2 million. Gross profit in the “Financial Cards” product line increased to $49.1 million and gross margin rose by 3 points to 24.5%. Axalto shipped almost 5 million of its contactless payment cards to U.S. banks during the second half of 2005. Overall, the company increased its revenue to $992 million, its gross profit to $321 million, and its net income reached $59 million. Totally, Axalto shipped a record 440 million microprocessor cards during 2005, a 24% increase in volume when compared with the prior year. Volume growth was most marked in “Mobile Communication:” Axalto sold over 340 million SIM cards to mobile network operators, a 33% increase on last year’s comparable figure. Volumes in “Financial Cards” were also excellent, with 78 million microprocessor banking cards delivered. For complete details on Axalto’s 2005 and fourth quarter results visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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Japan’s DoCoMo’s iD M-Payments Takes-Off

Japan’s Mizuho Bank has agreed to sell its 18% stake in UC Card to communications giant NTT DoCoMo for $8.4 million. The deal also calls for UC Card and Mizuho Bank to expand DoCoMo’s “iD” mobile phone payment system. Under terms of the deal, Mizuho Bank will upgrade the function of the “Mizuho Mileage Club Card,” an ATM card with credit card functions issued by Credit Saison, to enable cardholders to make credit card purchases via their mobile phones. Credit Saison also agreed to give their credit card owners the option of making payments via “iD.” Credit Saison intends to issue the new cards later this year.

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