AmEx Launches The Knot & Nest Credit Cards

American Express and The Knot have launched two new co-branded consumer credit cards. The “Knot Credit Card” was developed for couples planning their wedding, and “The Nest Credit Card” is designed specifically for newlyweds. The Knot is a leading wedding resource that reaches 1.2 million engaged couples annually through the Web, newsstands, bookstores, and national television. The “Knot Credit Card” offers a wedding planning kit, special travel offers and free gifts. The new card also provides benefits and special discounts for wedding-related merchants and events. The “Nest Credit Card” also offers a planning kit as well as discounts for home-related offers plus special travel offers. Both cards carry no annual fee and offer automatic enrollment in the “Membership Rewards” program. Cardholders receive 5,000 bonus points with their first purchase and 10,000 bonus points with annual spend of $15,000.

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Metris & HSBC Close as Metris CEO & CFO Exit

Metris CEO David Wesselink and CFO Bill Houlihan have left Metris Companies today following its merger with HSBC. This past summer the SEC served a “Wells Notice” on Wesselink and controller Mark Wagener. 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. HSBC required Metris to resolve the SEC issues. Earlier this week, the Midwest Regional Office of the SEC informed Metris that it does not intend to recommend an enforcement action against Metris. More than 99% of Metris shareholders voted to approve the HSBC acquisition yesterday. The acquisition closed this morning. Metris will become a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC. Metris and HSBC signed an agreement on August 4th for an all-cash transaction of $1.59 billion. (CF Library 7/13/05; 8/4/05; 11/29/05)

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AmEx Launches an HSA Card with WellChoice

American Express is entering the employee directed healthcare payment business with the release of a new “Health Savings Account” card. The new “American Express HealthPay Plus Card” is being issued in partnership with WellChoice, the parent company of Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. The healthcare payment solution includes the “Empire Total Blue” consumer-directed health plan, a “Health Savings Account” from American Express Bank and the new AmEx “HSA” card. AmEx and WellChoice plan to offer the solution to corporations beginning early next year.

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OCT DEBT

Credit card outstandings continued to hover around GBP 56 billion
during October. The figure is also slightly below year-ago levels by GBP
800 million. The Bank of England reports the increase in total net
lending to individuals in October of GBP 8.9 billion was larger than in
September and above the previous six month average. However, the
twelve-month growth rate continued to weaken to 10.2%.
Within the total, the increase in net lending secured on dwellings GBP
7.6 billion was larger than in September and the previous six month
average. The increase in consumer credit of GBP 1.3 billion was higher
than in September. The annual growth rate of consumer credit continued
to fall to 10.5% in October.

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RBS Lynk to Offer Access to Debitman

Atlanta-based RBS Lynk is planning to provide access to the Debitman ACH debit network. Debitman is the only provider of a shared network, retailer-issued card. RBS says the primary incentive for retailers to issue store-branded debit cards was to reward consumers through their loyalty programs and keep the card value in their store network. However, with Debitman acceptance, retailers can take an active role in managing their electronic payment costs as well as save on network fees and receive incremental revenue as a card issuer. RBS Lynk says it recognizes Debitman as a debit network utilizing the national ACH system. Wal-Mart Stores recently announced it is accepting “Debitman” cards at the checkout in all Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations across the USA. The Debitman network interchange and switch fee is $0.15 per transaction and the network issuer rebate is generally $0.06 per transaction but can range higher. (CF Library 11/15/05)

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Fifth Third’s Second-in-Command Resigns Abruptly

Fifth Third Bancorp announced that EVP Neal Arnold, who headed the Company’s payment processing business, resigned yesterday. Arnold had served as executive in charge of the Company’s investment advisor, payment processing, mortgage and consumer lending businesses. Those businesses will report to George A. Schaefer, Jr., President and CEO of Fifth Third. Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. with $104.6 billion in assets.

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ACS Signs TransFirst for Card & ACH Processing

The Government Solutions Group of Affiliated Computer Services has inked an agreement for Dallas-based TransFirst to provide credit/debit/ACH processing. Through this relationship, ACS will have access to TransFirst’s credit card processing programs, 24/7 in-house customer support, and the ability to offer business customers multiple payment processing methods including Internet, ACH, batch, wireless and recurring payments. In addition, ACS and its customers will be able to benefit from TransFirst comprehensive online reporting services. ACS will primarily leverage the power of TransFirst proprietary ACS provides business process outsourcing and information technology solutions to commercial and government clients. TransFirst currently processes approximately $22 billion in annual sales volume for more than 155,000 merchants and more than 965 financial institutions.

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GECF to Issue the Clockwork Royal Privilege Card

Success Group International’s Clockwork Home Services has signed a deal with GE’s Retail Sales Finance unit for a new private label “Royal Privilege” credit card. In addition to fast credit decisions, customers will receive competitive interest rates and responsive customer service from GE. As part of the Royal Privilege Program, GE will also be providing a one-call solution for approving Clockwork’s customers. When a customer is unable to obtain approval through GE, the contractor will be automatically transferred to a secondary finance source, eliminating the need to source the application to numerous finance companies. This will enable business owners to manage the consumer financing process more efficiently.

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Johnson Financial Expands STAR Network Access

Wisconsin-based Johnson Bank has expanded its STAR Network access to include both Arizona and Wisconsin, plus Wind River Financial, which is the merchant service provider for Johnson Bank, now provides STAR Network access for thousands of merchants. First Data’s STAR Network is a coast-to-coast electronic payments network and provider of secure, real-time electronic transactions. Johnson Financial Group is a $3.7 billion financial services company. Wind River Financial is a provider of electronic payment services, including credit/debit card processing, check conversion/guarantee, gift and loyalty cards, point of sale solutions and security compliance services.

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Majority of Consumers Limit Online Shopping

A new survey found that 69% of those shopping online will limit their purchasing because of fears associated with misuse of personal information. The TNS/TRUSTe survey revealed that the top five factors that shoppers say might limit or prevent them from buying online this holiday season are, in order, identity theft (49%), spam resulting from online purchases (39%), credit card theft (39%), spyware (38%) and preference for the “touch and feel” of shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores (35%). Among those willing to use e-commerce, nearly 42% prefer using the large, well-known online brands they believe will keep them safer from privacy-related threats.

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Card Personalization Turf Battle is Brewing

A battle may be brewing over front-of-card personalization services. A U.K. company announced today that it intends to enforce its international intellectual patent rights for the technology that allows cardholders to design their own payment card and enables issuers and manufacturers to use digital card images on the fly for just-in-time card manufacturing. London-based Serverside Group, founded in early 2003, says it has become aware of new front-of-card personalization programs entering the market and may take legal action internationally to protect its patents, copyright, trade secret, trademark and database rights. The company has strategic alliances with VISA, Datacard Group and Getty Images. To-date, SSG has seven issuers offering its card personalization to cardholders including Abbey National, America First Credit Union, Capital One, First National Bank of Omaha and Taishin Bank in Taiwan. The Company says it also has signed contracts with additional top 10 regional issuers and has several other deals in the pipeline. Cardholder personalization services have gained popularity in the USA this year. Wal-Mart has added the option to its gift card program and MasterCard recently announced a similar service for its members. MasterCard introduced its proprietary “MasterCard Card Customization Services” two weeks ago that allows issuers to offer consumer and small business cardholders the ability to create their own unique credit, debit or prepaid cards. Wal-Mart Stores introduced its personalized gift card program in early November, charging an $0.88 fee. (CF Library 11/14/05 and 11/21/05)

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