Vantage Debit MasterCard Adds Credit Building

San Ramon, California-based AccountNow has expanded its “Vantage Debit MasterCard” product with a credit building feature which reports bill payments to the PRBC credit bureau. The free credit builder is a new feature of the AccountNow Pay Anyone Bill Pay service. It provides the millions of unbanked or underbanked U.S. consumers a credit builder product that allows them to demonstrate their credit worthiness by paying ordinary bills on time. The service is free of charge to all new and current AccountNow members who use the AccountNow Bill Pay service. The AccountNow Bill Pay service is the first such service of its kind. PRBC is a national credit bureau with a community economic development mission.

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First Data Teams with MICROS-Fidelio for EFTPOS

First Data and POS solutions provider, MICROS-Fidelio, have teamed to transform the management of EFTPOS payments within Australia.
The solution provides commercial benefits for operators within the
hospitality and travel industry sector and modernizes the way bill
payments are made. The integrated EFTPOS system eliminates the
requirement for dedicated EFTPOS terminals and delivers
additional functionality, such as dynamic currency conversion.
Australia’s seafood restaurant Doyle’s was the first site to go live with the system.

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M-tech Innovation Wins ICMA Spiritus Award

The International Card Manufacturers Association announced that Pune-based card manufacture M-tech Innovation is a winner of
the “Spiritus Award.” M-tech took an active role in aiding the Tsunami
relief funds. They not only raised a substantial amount of money to
donate to the Sakal Tsunami funds, they also hold a highly successful
annual blood donation camp. Winners of the award were determined based
on a number of factors, including the level and depth of involvement by
company staff; the overall impact of the program on the community, i.e.
the number of people affected or helped by the program; the overall
effort put into the program in terms of hours of service or complexity
of the program’s development; and the overall impact of resources such
as money, time, expertise, and in-kind donations. ICMA is a non-profit
association comprised of plastic card manufacturers, personalizers and
related industry participants.

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McDonald’s Arch Card Gets a Power Start

The QSR king is taking its gift card national today, supporting it with the largest promotion ever for a retailer-issued gift card. McDonald’s will give away 22 million “Arch Cards” to jump start consumer awareness and fuel incremental sales of its new prepaid plastic product. Each card will carry $1 in value. McDonald’s will distribute 9 million cards to in-store customers, 8 million to American Express consumer cardholders, and 5 million cards to Southwest Airlines customers. The $1 promotional cards can be used towards the purchase of any McDonald’s menu item or towards the purchase of a reloadable “Arch Card,” which is available in $5, $10, $25 and $50 denominations. McDonald’s has 13,700 U.S. restaurants.

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SEC Clears the Way for HSBC-Metris Merger

The way has been cleared for the acquisition of Metris Companies by HSBC. HSBC said the merger would be dependent on Metris resolving its issues with the SEC. The Midwest Regional Office of the SEC informed Metris that it does not intend to recommend that the SEC bring an enforcement action against Metris with respect to its pending investigation. The SEC investigation, first disclosed by Metris in August 2003, concerns the company’s reporting and treatment of allowance for loan losses for 2001 and its valuation of retained interests in securitized loans. In August, Metris received a “Wells Notice” from the SEC covering the CEO and its controller. HSBC says the recent SEC statement has satisfied the conditions of the sale. Metris stockholders are expected to approve the merger tomorrow and it will likely close on December 1st. In August, HSBC Finance announced it was buying Metris Companies for about $1.6 billion in cash. (CF Library 7/13/05; 8/4/05)

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88% of Consumers Want Open-Loop Gift Cards

A new poll shows that 79% of those surveyed would rather receive a $100 prepaid gift card than a more traditional gift worth the same value. The MasterCard survey, conducted by KRC Research, also showed that 88% would rather purchase an open-loop prepaid gift card than a retailer-issued card. More than 80% said prepaid cards avoided the unwanted gift problem. About 83% said they would be somewhat or much more likely to stay within their budget if they were shopping for a prepaid card. Nearly 60% indicated that avoiding the time-consuming practices of holiday shopping and gift-wrapping would influence their decision to purchase a prepaid gift card. Additionally, the poll found that 63% of people who receive an open-loop gift card are likely to spend it at the mall as opposed to a grocery store or gas station.

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SAVVIS CEO Loses Job Over an AmEx Card Lawsuit

The Chairman and CEO of St. Louis-based SAVVIS has resigned after American Express sued the company over disputed charges made two years ago on an American Express card issued to the CEO. The Board of Directors of SAVVIS has accepted the resignation of Robert A. McCormick, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer effective today. Jack Finlayson will continue as Acting Chief Executive Officer. SAVVIS does not intend to comment further on this matter pending resolution of the American Express lawsuit, which is still in litigation. SAVVIS is a global IT utility services provider that focuses exclusively on IT solutions for businesses.

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Credit Card Holiday Spending to Drop 3.5%

Credit card spending in December 2004 totaled GBP 11.4 billion but
this year is expected to be down 3.5% to GBP 11 billion. Debit card
expenditure looks set to reach a new monthly high in December totaling
GBP 17.8 billion, up GBP 3 billion from GBP 14.8 billion in December
2004, a 20% rise). Overall, plastic card use is set to show a
year-on-year rise in December of almost 10%. Total UK spending in
December on cards, cash and cheques is expected to rise 11% to almost
GBP 50 billion according to APACS. The one situation where APACS expects
credit cards to remain the first choice of payment this Christmas is
online. It is predicted that two-thirds of the expected GBP 4 billion
total of plastic card spend online will be made up of credit card sales.

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