COBRANDED CHAMPIONS

Fifteen European cobranded credit card programs have been nominated for
the second “MasterCard Europe CoBrand Champion of the Year Awards.” The
winners, to be announced this week, have been chosen for their
demonstration of excellence and innovation in cobranding with an
emphasis on criteria such as program attributes, innovative marketing
strategies and overall card program results. “Best Program Launch,”
“Best Usage/Expansion,” and “Long-term Achievement” are the three
winning categories. The nominees are the “AKBank – Axess MasterCard”;
“AKBank – Platinum MasterCard”; “Allied Irish Bank – Brown Thomas
MasterCard”; “Barclaycard – SkyCard”; “Citibank – Eurotel MasterCard”;
“Citibank – Megafon MasterCard”; “Garanti Bank – &Club MasterCard”; “JSC
Latvia Savings Bank – Latvian Youth Song and Dance Festival Maestro”;
“Kazkommerts Bank – Go!Card”; “Marks and Spencer – M&S Money”; “MBNA –
Virgin Money”; “OP-Kotipankki – Bilia Oy MasterCard”; “Piraeus bank –
Champions MasterCard”; “SPRON – EKort MasterCard”; and “Statoil –
MasterCard.” The winners will be announced at the “6th MasterCard Europe
Affinity and CoBranding Conference,” September 15 and 16 in Budapest,
Hungary.

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RBC CASH Index Goes Negative in September

The September “RBC CASH Index” (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) fell from 32.2 in August to -13.5 in September due to rising gas prices and Katrina’s aftermath. The RBC CASH Index of 61.5 for September continued a year-long slide from a high of 104.8 in August of 2004. The CASH Index is a monthly national survey of consumer attitudes on the current and future state of local economies, personal financial situations, savings, and confidence to make large investments. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is Canada’s largest bank as measured by assets, and is one of North America’s leading diversified financial services companies.

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Providian/WAMU Merger Set for October 1st

Providian’s Board has determined October 1st as the effective date of its merger with Washington Mutual. Holders of the Company’s common stock immediately prior to the effective time of the merger will receive for each share of the Company’s common stock, 0.4005 shares of Washington Mutual’s common stock and cash equal to the value of 0.0495 shares of Washington Mutual’s common stock. San Francisco-based Providian Financial Corporation is a provider of credit cards to mainstream American consumers throughout the United States.

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Houston Astrodome Gets Cardtronics ATMs

Houston-based Cardtronics along with Ventus Networks have installed ATMs on the Houston Astrodome campus to provide surcharge-free access to cash for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Ventus Networks, a full service-global telecommunications company, will provide the wireless communications and equipment for the ATMs free of charge. Cardtronics is the owner/operator of ATMs with a nationwide U.S. network of more than 25,000 locations. Ventus Networks is a full-service end-to-end global communications provider that specializes in designing, implementing and managing private networks.

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FEMA/Chase Debit Card Payout Tops $17MM

FEMA this weekend reported that $17,532,000 was distributed via its debit card pilot program in large shelters in Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. The Chase-issued card was developed for FEMA in less than a week. FEMA expects to wrap up the debit card pilot today. More than $350 million was distributed through electronic funds transfer and more than $315 million was distributed through Treasury checks. These $2,000 expedited payments are just an initial emergency payment drawn down by those eligible for FEMA assistance. The maximum assistance per household through FEMA is $26,200. The Red Cross is also distributing between $850 and $1,600 via its card program to hurricane victims, depending on family size.

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VT Congressman Takes on Card Issuers

Vermont’s only congressional representative last week introduced legislation requiring credit card companies to provide notice to consumers before raising interest rates or charging fees. The bill would also prohibit credit card issuers from raising interest rates on pre-existing balances for fixed rate cards. The “Consumer Credit Card Protection Act of 2005” was unveiled by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders said his bill would clean up some of the most egregious anti-consumer practices by credit card issuers and prohibit “bait and switch” scams used by some banks.

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Aliant Financial Chooses Morgan Beaumont

Sarasota, Florida-based Aliant Financial Services, an ISO of Chase, has named Morgan Beaumont as its exclusive provider of stored value/debit card retail merchant prospects. This partnership represents a component in Morgan Beaumont’s nationwide SIRE Network deployment strategy, to build out a standardized, national platform of cash loading locations for the stored value card industry. Morgan Beaumont, Inc. is a technology solutions company located providers of stored value and debit card solutions in the US.

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Arthur Blank & Company to Unveil DualCard

Boston-based Arthur Blank tomorrow will unveil a double-card set that combines joint marketing programs and multi-application campaigns with one product. The new multi-function “DualCard” enables two retailers to team up for loyalty, gift, membership, and access control applications. The new card offers two standard credit card-sized cards on a single break-apart sheet. Blank suggests that a book store and coffee chain or a theater and restaurant could run joint promotions with a combination gift, loyalty or coupon program. A hotel or casino could also use the cards for room access and player rewards. Arthur Blank is the largest producer of private label plastic cards in North America. Founded in 1934, the company prints and personalizes more than 700 million plastic cards a year.

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UK Issuers Target Balance Switchers

Chasing rates and switching credit cards is getting more difficult as UK banks introduce balance transfer fees. Virgin credit card is now taking aim at so-called “rate tarts” with a 2% balance transfer fee with a cap of $91. Many UK issuers now offer 0% rate deals. Capital One recently launched a card that offers a 0% rate through January 2007 but it carries a 2% balance transfer fee with no cap. Marbles and Co-op currently offer 0% balance transfer deals without balance transfer fees. The Bristol Business School recently concluded that “rate tarts” are costing the UK card industry about $146 million per month.

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Debisys and AmeriTel Ink a Prepaid Deal

California-based Debisys has signed a deal to supply AmeriTel with its POSA and Web-based solutions for distribution of prepaid products. The contract provides AmeriTel with e-pins, long distance, prepaid credit/debit and bill payment services, and will be rolled out across AmeriTel’s network of over 700 locations. Debisys Inc. is a leading supplier of prepaid solutions. Its POSA network has over 12,000 active terminals and processes over $100 million a year in product sales. American Telecommunications is a cellular phone reseller.

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ABNH HoloMag Technology Gains Popularity

NJ-based American Bank Note Holographics has expanded its supply agreement with MasterCard to include “HoloMag” technology. The use of “HoloMag” frees up space on the card since the security hologram is now integrated with the magnetic stripe on the back of the card. Last week, MasterCard unveiled a new card design option that gives issuers 10.5% more card face to decorate. In March, VISA announced a change in its brand identity and card design. Like MasterCard, VISA relocated its dove hologram to the back of the card and is also using “HoloMag” technology. (CF Library 3/15/05; 9/2/05; 9/8/05)

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U.S. Bank Intros the LATINA Style VISA

LATINA Style Magazine has partnered with U.S. Bank to launch an affinity card that generates funds for Latina scholarships. The new “LATINA Style VISA Platinum” card also enables cardholders to “Name Your Own Reward” program. LATINA Style identified U.S. Bank as one of the top 50 best places for Latinas to work in the USA. The magazine cited U.S. Bank’s demonstrated commitment to diversity, hiring and promoting Latinas at all levels of the organization, its mentorship program and workplace benefits as factors leading to the company’s inclusion on the list. The card generates revenue for the scholarships via an activation fee and a fee based on card volume. Scholarship recipients will be selected annually.

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