New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer shed more light on the Simon “VISA Giftcard” settlement reported on earlier this week in CardFlash. Under terms of the settlement, Simon agreed to pay to the state $100,000 in penalties and $25,000 in costs. Simon also has agreed to comply with New York’s law that requires it to disclose on its gift card the five dollar fee it charges to replace a lost or stolen card and the $7.50 fee it charges to reissue an expired card. These fees are not prohibited by law but must be conspicuously disclosed on the card itself. Additionally, Simon agreed not to assess a service fee on any card unless it has been unused for twelve consecutive months. New York State’s gift card law took effect on October 18, 2004 and applies to all cards purchased after that date. Attorneys General from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut have also filed lawsuits claiming the “Simon VISA” card program violated local consumer protection laws.Details
MasterCard International announced the results of its “MasterIndex of Travel” report, forecasting solid growth of outbound travelers from across the Asia/Pacific region in the first half of 2005. Of the 12 key markets covered, outbound travel from China, Japan and Indonesia are predicted to show the strongest year-on-year growth at 33.6%, 19.8% and 18.9% respectively. Double digit growth is also expected for the rest of the markets, with the Philippines following closely at 9.8%. MasterCard found that Singapore Airlines has consistently been identified as the most preferred airline for both personal and business travels since the inauguration of the “MasterIndex of Travel” in 2003. This trend continues in the latest report as Singapore Airlines (15%) remains the most preferred airline for business travel in Asia/Pacific, followed by Cathay Pacific Airways (13%), Japan Airlines (9%) and China Airlines (9%). For personal travel, Singapore Airlines (11%) was also the most preferred, closely followed by Cathay Pacific Airways (10%).Details
The International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA) will hold their annual Spring Academy workshops in 2 locations in the United States and Europe. The first workshop will be held on May 4-5, 2005, in Dallas, Texas. Chaired by Tim Wright of Gemplus, this workshop will address advances in personalization, engineering design, card materials challenges, magnetic stripe technology, contactless cards, reducing manufacturing costs to remain competitive and challenges and benefits in the substrate market. The second workshop will be held June 1-2, 2005, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In addition to addressing similar issues as the US-based workshop, this will highlight issues such as e-passports, tachograph technology, biodegradable card material and the European drivers license card. Alan Scott of ID Data will serve as the workshop chairman. Based in Princeton Junction, NJ, ICMA is a non-profit association comprised of plastic card manufacturers, personalizers and related industry participants. With more than 220 members globally, representing more than 35 countries, ICMA acts as a clearinghouse for industry issues, including the production,technology, application, security and environmental issues of plastic cards. Visit the ICMA website at www.icma.com.Details
Banque pour le Commerce Exterieur Lao and Thai Military Bank have launched the MoneyGram service. MoneyGram has 75,000 locations in over 170 countries worldwide. In Thailand, MoneyGram service is provided by Thai Military Bank & Siam Commercial Bank with an extension of more than 700 locations nationwide. In Canada, MoneyGram service is provided by Canada Post, with an extensive network of more than 1,000 locations nationwide. In Italy, service is provided through Poste Italiane, the Italian post offices.Details
It appears that the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005” will shortly pass in the House and the Senate and be signed by the President before May. Yesterday, the Senate rejected five amendments by Democrats. Senator Charles Schumer was defeated in an amendment to limit the use of asset protection trusts to assets up to $125,000. Senator Mark Dayton’s amendment to limit credit card interest rates to 30% was voted down. The Senate also rejected an amendment by Senator John Rockefeller to permit employees of Chapter 11 companies to collect up to $15,000 in back pay. Senator Richard Durbin’s proposal to reign in abusive practices of executives who cash out before their company files for bankruptcy protection was also defeated. Senator Bill Nelson amendment to exempt debtors from the “means test” if their problem was caused by identity theft was voted down too.Details
Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts announced an exclusive offer for “Premium MasterCard” cardholders to enjoy VIP treatment at Le Meridien properties worldwide. Benefits include a complimentary guaranteed room upgrade to a suite, daily breakfast buffet for up to two people and 3 pm late check out every time they book a two-night “Weekend Break” package from now until December 31st. To receive these special benefits, “Premium MasterCard” cardholders need to book and pay for their “Weekend Break” package with a “Gold,” “Platinum,” or “World MasterCard.” London-based Le Meridien is a global hotel group with a portfolio of more than 130 luxury and upscale hotels in 56 countries worldwide.Details
VISA’s cut of the U.S. pie expanded by 100 basis points last year as gross dollar volume rose 15% to nearly $1.3 trillion. The lift came at the expense of MasterCard and Discover, who lost 100 bps and 50 bps in market share, respectively. American Express, the fastest growing U.S. network, gained 40 bps in share during 2004. AmEx posted $305 billion in U.S. GDV, a 16.3% increase over the prior year. In total, Americans used the top four networks for $2.365 trillion in credit card and off-line debit transactions last year, a 12.8% gain over 2003.
U.S. GROSS DOLLAR VOLUME
Network 2004 2003 CHANGE SHARE
VISA $1265.2 $1100.3 +15.0% 53.5%
MasterCard $ 695.9 $ 636.9 + 9.3% 29.4%
Am Express $ 304.8 $ 262.1 +16.3% 12.9%
Discover $ 99.6 $ 97.9 + 1.7% 4.2%
TOTAL $2365.5 $2097.2 +12.8%
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)
Sumitomo Mitsui Card unveiled a new service in which millions of full-color, personalized credit-card statements will be printed on-demand on 24 Xerox “iGen3” digital production presses. Sumitomo Mitsui Card was first in Japan to issue the “VISA” card, and it
has more than 13 million members. The new service enabled by the Xerox
“iGen3” will provide the latest information on products and services
tailored to the individual needs of each cardholder based on information
such as gender, address and past credit-card usage. The service is
scheduled to start with statements issued on March 28. Fuji Xerox is a 25/75 joint venture with Xerox Corporation and Fuji Photo Film and it markets the Xerox brand in Japan, the Pacific Rim and most of Asia.
Smart card manufacturer Axalto reported that it sold 72 million microprocessor banking cards last year to financial institutions. Within the Cards segment, which achieved revenue increase of 23%, all major product lines contributed to the growth, led by the strength of the Mobile Communication and Financial Services product lines and an excellent performance by the Public Sector and Other products line that includes in particular the patent licensing activity. The Point-of-Sales Terminals segment achieved the strongest growth: + 52%. For the full-year Axalto reported full-year revenue of $960 million, an increase of 25% versus 2003. Net income more than doubled to $59.1 million. For complete details on Axalto’s fourth quarter and full-year performance, visit CardData ([www.carddata.com]).
Point Four and Comms XL are first to achieve global sign-off for Chip and PIN. Streamline, a provider of merchant accounts in Europe, has given the combined Point Four, Comms XL, and Verifone “Chip and PIN” solution a global accreditation certificate. This is the first blanket
sign-off for an integrated “EPoS” “Chip and PIN” solution by Streamline.
This means any merchant wishing to use the Point Four “EPoS” system, with Comms XL’s “SmartCCard” software and Verifone’s “SC500” terminal, will not have to go through any bank testing or approval for “Chip and PIN” if they use Streamline as their acquiring bank.
San Diego-based Encore Capital Group reported that fourth quarter revenues increased 46% and that net income rose 48%, compared to one year ago. Encore is a purchaser and manager of charged-off consumer receivables portfolios. Gross collections for 4Q/04 were $53.4 million, a 12% increase over the same period of the prior year. Encore says it was able to achieve strong growth despite scaling back its purchasing of new portfolios throughout much of 2004 due to to less attractive pricing in the marketplace. Total purchases during 2004 were $103.4 million compared to $89.8 million in 2003. The Company spent $46.1 million to purchase approximately $1.2 billion in face value of portfolios during the fourth quarter of 2004, a blended purchase price of 3.86% of face value. About 96% of the portfolios purchased in the fourth quarter of 2004 were credit card receivables. For complete details on Encore’s fourth quarter performance, visit CardData ([www.carddata.com]).
Montreal-based Optimal Group reported revenues for the fourth quarter of $33.9 million, compared to $9.3 million in 2003. Net earnings for the fourth quarter compared to a net loss for the comparable year-earlier period of $2.9 million. During the year, Optimal acquired
National Processing Services, Terra Payments, the repair depot and field
services division of Systech Retail Systems, and acquired substantially all of the assets of RBA, a repair depot and field services company. For the first quarter, Optimal anticipates underlying earnings from continuing operations before income taxes to be approximately $4.5
million. For complete details on Optimal’s fourth quarter performance visit CardData (www.carddata.com).