AXA Says Americans are Top Holiday Spenders

AXA Equitable found that Americans plan to spend more money on Christmas holiday gifts than anyone else in the world. AXA says its survey showed that the average working American plans to spend approximately $1,345 on Christmas holiday gifts this year, a 42% increase over projected spending in last year’s AXA survey. When asked what gifts they would buy, more than 85% favored both clothing and small-ticket entertainment items. AXA says the Japanese ranked lowest among those surveyed, with workers saying they plan to spend approximately $160 on Christmas holiday gifts this year.

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MasterCard and BankWest to Launch Prepaid Debit

BankWest has reportedly agreed to issue a MasterCard prepaid debit card. Dow Jones also reports that MasterCard expects to issue prepaid debit cards through three other banks next year in Australia. VISA prepaid debit cards are offered by St. George Bank, Suncorp-Metway, HSBC, and 11 other regional banks and building societies. VISA debit cards are also issued through Westpac in Victoria state only. MasterCard has 16 million debit cards and six million credit cards in the country. BankWest is a unit of HBOS.

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BSA Says Internet Security will Affect Sales

The Business Software Alliance says it found that 25% of U.S. consumers will not shop online this holiday season due to Internet security concerns. More than 60% of consumers predict Internet security concerns will affect their online holiday shopping at some level. According to the survey, 84% of U.S. online consumers believe that some Internet retailers have not done enough to protect their customers, and 76% would like to be better educated on how to protect themselves. BSA says the good news is that 81% are using anti-virus software on their computers.

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PayPal Closes Payment Gateway Acquisition

PayPal has closed its acquisition of VeriSign’s payment gateway business for $370 million. The acquisition does not impact the guidance that eBay provided in its earnings announcement on Oct. 19, 2005. The estimated outlook for the payment gateway business is already reflected in eBay’s guidance for the fourth quarter of 2005 and the full year 2006. VeriSign operates intelligent infrastructure services that protect interactions across voice and data networks. PayPal, an eBay company, enables any individual or business with an email address to send and receive payments online.

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Card Rates on the Web Rise for 7th Week

Ohio-based IndexCreditCards.com says consumer credit card rates, as published by major banks on their respective Web sites, rose for the seventh straight week. “Top-level” consumer credit cards averaged a 9.91% Annual Percentage Rate (APR), up from 9.87% last week and 9.51% seven weeks ago. IndexCreditCards.com uses “top-level” to describe Platinum or similarly designated credit cards that generally offer the lowest interest rates to eligible cardholders. IndexCreditCards.com offers credit card news, research and a comprehensive index of credit cards available on the Internet today.

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Calif DMV to Begin Debit Card Acceptance

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is gearing up to offer ATM/debit card acceptance in 92 field office by mid-January after 89% of customers polled said they appreciated the convenience of cards. Traditional credit cards will continue to be accepted only for Internet and telephone transactions. The new service at selected field offices applies only to ATM/debit cards with manually entered PIN numbers.

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Women to Use Mostly Cash for Holiday Gifts

WomensWallStreet.com says its annual study shows that 33% of women say they’ll spend between $250 and $500, with the $500 to $1,000 range coming in a close second with 32% of women. Nearly 70% of women say they will buy at least some of their gifts online. The survey also found that 45% will pay with mostly cash while 34% will mostly use credit cards. Slightly more than 20% will have an even split between cash and credit cards.

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CTG Says Fuel Costs will Dampen Spending

NJ-based consultancy Clear Thinking Group says its research shows that retail sales will increase by 4.0% to 4.5% over 2004, falling short of last year’s 5.3% gain. The research firm says fuel prices have fallen rapidly over the past six weeks but, even with the decrease consumers are still paying 30% more than they did last year. CTG also says the high cost of home heating fuel will continue to have an impact on disposable income. CTG says it believes gift cards will grow by nearly 10% to 12% compared to the 2004 holiday season and the average consumer is expected to receive three to four gift cards.

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NRF Says Holiday Retail Sales to Rise 6%

The National Retail Federation has for the first time revised its holiday sales forecast. The NRF now expects holiday retail sales (November and December) to increase 6.0% over last year to $439.53 billion. The change was due to strong October retail sales and falling gasoline prices. The previous forecast was a 5.0% sales gain, issued on September 21st. NRF represents more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments.

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Holiday Gift Card Sales to Rise 36%

While solid figures on holiday gift card sales are not available, the consensus is that Americans will purchase between $15 billion and $20 billion this holiday season. The estimated average gift card purchase has an even wider range, from $88 to $339, based on surveys conducted by various research firms. A survey conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation found that gift card sales will total $18.48 billion and that the average consumer will spend $88.03 on gift cards this holiday season. Stored Value Systems says its survey shows that Americans will spend an average of $248 on gift cards during the upcoming holiday season. American Express released a survey that shows 57% of Americans plan to purchase gift cards this year, spending on average $339. Deloitte says gift cards will remain the #1 gift purchase this year, with 67% of nationwide respondents indicating that they will purchase an average of 4.9 cards, compared to 64% and 4.7 cards last holiday season. A new poll by Chase for the “Disney Rewards VISA” determined that 68% of parents plan to purchase a store-branded gift card this year. Another Stored Value Systems survey found that four out of five parents say that they have purchased a gift card for their child or that their child has received a gift card with an average value of $29. First Data Prepaid Services’ ValueLink found that 59% of American adults, an estimated 131 million people, either purchased or received a gift card in the previous 12 months, up 23% from 2001.

HOLIDAY GIFT CARD SALES (ESTIMATED)
2001: $4 billion
2002: $6 billion
2003: $10 billion
2004: $14 billion
2005: $19 billion
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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