International Online Spending Soars 71%

VISA Asia Pacific announced that online spending by VISA cardholders
outside their home countries, for the third quarter, exceeded $377
million, a 71%
growth over the same period in 2004. The number of international online
VISA card transactions also increased exponentially from 1.9 million in
the third quarter of 2004 to more than 3.6 million for the same period
in 2005, a 94% gain. Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and the Philippines
all doubled when compared with the same quarter in 2004. VISA
cardholders spent the most on transportation, about $109 million, an
increase of 79% year on year, followed closely by retail and
trade, at about $103 million, a 90%. For the 12 months ended September
2005, $509 billion was spent at point of sale or withdrawn from ATMs in
Asia Pacific using VISA cards.

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NACBA Names a New Executive Director

The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys has named Brad Botes, an Alabama bankruptcy attorney, as its new executive director.Botes will serve as the Association’s first full-time executive director. Botes received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Alabama and his J.D. from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. Prior to commencing legal practice, he served one-year clerkships each with the United States Trustee for the Northern District of Alabama. NACBA serves more than 3,500 members in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, serving the interests of consumer bankruptcy attorneys and protecting the rights of consumer debtors in need of bankruptcy relief.

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PEONY MASTERCARD

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has introduced the
first EMV-compliant, chip-based card in China. The new “Peony MasterCard” carries both a chip and mag stripe, enabling cardholders traveling overseas to utilize EMV-compliant POS systems and ATMs. The new card is also an international dual-currency card, and can be used for both RMB and USD transactions. MasterCard says there has been a significant reduction in fraud levels with migration to EMV chip-based
cards in markets such as Malaysia. ICBC says the new card provides huge opportunities for the local payments industry, especially in light of the “2008 Beijing Olympics.” At the end of November 2005, MasterCard had issued over 41 million MasterCard-branded smart cards in Asia/Pacific.

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Intuit Expands OPC Option in TurboTax

Official Payments has signed a deal to provide a new integrated payment option within Intuit’s “TurboTax Online” and “TurboTax” desktop products, as well as Intuit’s “ProSeries” product for tax professionals, allowing customers to pay their federal tax balance due with all four major U.S. cards. Official Payments charges citizens a convenience fee for the service, however, taxpayers using credit or debit cards with bonus rewards programs may, depending on their card’s program, earn reward points, airline frequent flyer miles or cash back for paying their taxes and fees. Tier is a leading provider of transaction processing and packaged software and systems integration services for public sector clients.

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EPN UPIC Payments Top $1 Billion

EPN, the ACH business of The Clearing House Payments Company, reports that more than $1 billion in “UPIC” payments have been received by public and private entities across the USA. “UPIC” is a unique bank account identifier issued by financial institutions that allows organizations to receive electronic payments without divulging confidential banking information. UPICs are for credit payments only. In October, The Electronic Payments Association-NACHA began using a “UPIC” to facilitate electronic business-to-business payments from its members. This year, more than 20 companies were issued an “UPIC” by their financial institutions. The Electronic Payments Network consists of more than 1,600 commercial banks, credit unions and savings banks. It has processed more than 3.4 billion payments in 2004.

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Online Holiday Spending Around $1.9 billion

A recent survey released by TNS indicates that 39% of adult Canadian
Internet users plan to do some of their holiday shopping online this year,
spending $327 on average and will ring up $1.9 billion in holiday
purchases online this year, up from last year’s total planned
holiday-related online spending of $1.5 billion. However, 61% do not plan
to do
any holiday-related shopping online, with 42% of the respondents citing a
preference for in-store shopping. Those who buy online are motivated
mainly by convenience. Books remain the most popular holiday gifts
purchased over the Internet. The “Holiday Shopping Online” study is
conducted annually by TNS Canadian Facts. TNS is a market information
group.

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Yecies to Lead Pay By Touch Health Payments

San Francisco-based Pay By Touch has hired Steven Yecies as SVP and GM of the company’s new health care business division. Yecies was the founder and general manager of Scient’s global health and wellness business, where he implemented innovative e-business solutions for the world’s leading payer, provider, and life sciences companies and institutions. Yecies earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. Pay By Touch’s patented biometric payment products are free to consumers and enable shoppers to quickly and securely pay for purchases or cash checks using a finger scan linked to their personal identification information.

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Retail Banks Must Grow Organically

A new report suggests that retail banks must grow organically to survive. The Boston Consulting Group says many institutions are nearing a point where further cost cutting may weaken frontline sales capabilities and therefore hurt market share. As a result, BCG believes that the key future differentiator between market leaders and poor performers will be growth. According to the report, heavy consolidation has increased the number of strong competitors in many markets. These large players are driving fierce competition for customers in high-value segments such as private banking, mass affluent, and small-and-medium-sized enterprises. The report notes that the retail sector is among the most efficient users of capital within the global banking industry.

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