First Data to Acquire Germany’s GZS

Germany’s Gesellschaft fur Zahlungssysteme has agreed to be acquired by First Data for an undisclosed amount. GZS processes 982 million transactions annually and provides outsourced processing services for 8.5 million German and Swiss credit cards. GZS also provides merchant processing services for its clients who serve more than 300,000 merchants. The acquisition complements First Data’s expansion during 2004 into Greece and during this year into Austria, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Serbia and Montenegro, Russia, Hungary and the Nordic region. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

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MasterCard Alamo Bowl Draws Top Ratings

The national television broadcast of the “2005 MasterCard Alamo Bowl” earned a 5.41 rating making it the most-watched college football game in ESPN history. The rating translates into 4,875,554 households and 7.8 million viewers when considering ESPN’s household base and a 1.6 viewers-per-viewing household factor. Since 1995, the Alamo Bowl has produced seven of the Top 20 most-watched bowl games in ESPN history.

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Cash Systems Moves to the NASDAQ

Cash Systems will list its common stock on the “NASDAQ National Market” effective January 6th. Cash Systems has been listed on the American Stock Exchange since January 2004. At the close of market on January 5, 2006, Cash Systems, Inc.’s common stock will cease trading under the symbol CKN on the American Stock Exchange and will solely trade on the NASDAQ National Market under the new symbol CKNN. Cash Systems is a provider of cash access and related services to the retail and gaming industries.

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HALO Technology to Acquire InfoNow

Coneecticut-based HALO Technology Holdings has agreed to acquire Colorado-based InfoNow Corporation in a merger transaction valued at $7.2 million. Under the terms of the agreement each share of InfoNow common stock outstanding immediately prior to the merger will be converted into the right to receive approximately $0.71 in a combination of cash and common stock of HALO. The $0.71 per share value represents a premium to InfoNow’s stockholders of approximately 41.9%, 55.2% and 106.4% over the six-, three- and one-month average closing prices per share, respectively, for InfoNow’s common stock as quoted on Nasdaq in each instance through December 19, 2005. HALO Technology Holdings owns and operates a portfolio of enterprise software companies. InfoNow Corporation provides channel management and channel visibility software and services to companies that sell through complex channel partner networks.

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Herbie the Husker Wins the Cap One Contest

After more than 17 million votes cast, the University of Nebraska’s “Herbie the Husker” was named “Capital One Mascot of the Year” during the “Capital One Bowl”. Herbie won out of 11 All-American mascots chosen from Division IA and IAA athletic programs with college football teams. They made the squad after being ranked on interaction with fans, originality and pedigree. Each participating mascot receives $5,000 for its school’s mascot program. The winning mascot receives an additional $5,000 scholarship to help fund its school’s mascot program.

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Card Debt Up 15% and Hits New High in Australia

Credit card debt passed the A$32 billion milestone in October as charge volume plateaued in the face of higher energy prices and cardholder fees at the POS. Australians also are expected to submit 875,000 applications for credit cards during the fourth quarter, an increase of 11% from one-year ago. During the past twelve months, credit card debt has increased 14.9% while credit card volume has risen 13.3%, according to today’s issue of CardFlash International. One-year ago credit card debt stood at A$28.1 billion. Gross dollar volume on credit card and charge cards in October was A$14.5 billion, the same as September. Credit card volume peaked in December 2004 at A$16.2 billion. Based on data from the Reserve Bank of Australia, consumers charged A$13.5 billion in purchases on credit/charge cards during October, compared to A$11.9 billion one-year ago. Card credit limits reached A$89.5 billion at the end of October, compared to A$79.3 billion for October 2004. There are currently 12.4 million credit card and charge card accounts in Australia, compared to 11.5 million one-year ago. Meanwhile, Baycorp Advantage says 90,000 more Australians will file applications for credit cards in the fourth quarter, compared to one-year ago.

CREDIT CARD HISTORICAL
(A$ billions)
MONTH BALANCES VOLUME
Oct 04: 28.1 12.8
Nov 04: 28.7 14.0
Dec 04: 30.2 16.2
Jan 05: 29.4 12.3
Feb 05: 30.3 12.9
Mar 05: 30.3 13.8
Apr 05: 30.6 13.0
May 05: 30.8 14.2
Jun 05: 31.4 14.2
Jul 05: 31.4 13.5
Aug 05: 31.8 15.3
Sep 05: 31.9 14.5
Oct 05: 32.3 14.5
Source: Reserve Bank of Australia

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PIN Projected to Overtake Sig Debit by 2009

A new report projects that PIN debit transactions will exceed signature debit transactions within the next five years. The study also projects that American Express will gain significant ground in the U.S. consumer market by 2009 but will see its commercial card activity slowly erode due to a highly competitive market. MA-based Financial Insights projects that PIN debit transactions will grow from 9.5 billion in 2005 to 19.5 billion in 2009. During this same period signature debit transactions will grow from 12.9 billion to 18.0 billion. The 2004-2009 CAGR for PIN is 19.2% compared to 10.2% for signature. Financial Insights says the growth in PIN will be driven by its lower cost to the merchant, even though signature transaction costs will decline due to legal pressures. The independent research firm also notes that the rise of PIN debit is due to consumer preference. Financial Insights says consumers like the security of PIN, and now that merchants are more diligent about checking signatures and photo ID, it is also quicker and easier than signature debit. The report, “U.S. General Purpose Card 2005-2009 Spending Forecast and Analysis,” also projects that American Express will see its share of consumer card purchase volume grow from 15.3% this year to 18.4% in 2009. During the same period AmEx’s commercial card purchase volume share is expected to slip from 36.0% to 27.7%. Financial Insights says the commercial card market reflects the strides that VISA and MasterCard have made in improving the attractiveness of their commercial card products as well as the growing business acceptance of cards as a viable payment option. Financial Insights, an IDC company, is a subsidiary of IDG.

DEBIT CARD PROJECTIONS
Transactions – Billions
SIG PIN
2005: 12.9 9.5
2006: 14.1 11.3
2007: 15.6 13.5
2008: 16.9 16.3
2009: 18.0 19.5
Source: Financial Insights

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U.S. Brand Familiarity is Surprisingly Low

A new report from Ipsos Insight shows that less than one-fifth of Americans know about leading financial brands, such as Bank of America. Further, women lag behind their male counterparts: an average of only one in six American women is familiar with major financial services brands, even though women have improved financial independency. Customers with household incomes about $100,000 a year have the strongest knowledge of major financial brands. Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals. In 2004, Ipsos generated global revenues of GBP 605.6 million ($752.8 million U.S.).

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Parcxmart Cards and P.O.M. Meters Integrate

New Hampshire-based Parcxmart Technologies and P.O.M. have integrated Parcxmart smart cards and P.O.M. single-space parking meters. The Parcxmart card and patent-pending payment solution is America’s first fully-functional parking and local merchant smart card payment system. The Parcxmart Card solution offers drivers and consumers a convenient one card alternative to coins and cash for small dollar transactions at on-street and off-street parking locations, as well as for retail purchases at participating merchants across the United States. The Parcxmart payment solution is already operational in New Haven, CT, and San Jose, CA. Parcxmart Technologies Inc., an electronics payment company, has developed a proprietary, stored-value electronic purse, contained on a chip-based smart card that also securely manages loyalty points for customer rewards programs. P.O.M. Incorporated is the originator of metered parking and the leader in parking meter innovation.

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JCB Launches the True Guam Campaign

JCB has launched the “True Guam Campaign,” a cooperative destination
marketing promotion supported by the Guam Visitors Bureau. This joint
campaign, with the support of businesses and local merchants, is
designed to promote tourism and spending in Guam. The campaign will run
until May 31st. According to the Guam Visitors Bureau, approximately
950,000 Japanese travelers visit Guam each year, and each one spends an
average of USD 675 during their stay. JCB cardholder spending power is
higher than the average tourist to Guam. As a result of the “True Guam
Campaign,” JCB expects that 10,000 more cardholders than last year will
be visiting the island.

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