Metromedia Launches a Multi-Branded Gift Card

Metromedia Restaurant Group has introduced a multi-branded gift card that can be used at any of its 700 restaurants including: Bennigan’s, Bonanza/Ponderosa, Steak and Ale, and The Plano Tavern. Guests can choose any denomination for the gift card. The card has re-loadable balances as well as easy access to a broad range of dining choices. The cards can be purchased at a variety of fine retailers across the U.S. or by calling 1-800-727-8355. They can be used at any of the five restaurant brands under MRG. Metromedia Restaurant Group is a world leader in multi-concept service restaurant groups with over 800 Bennigan’s(R), Steak and Ale(R), Ponderosa Steakhouse(R), Bonanza(TM) Steakhouse, and The Plano Tavern(R) restaurants in the U.S. and overseas. The restaurants serve over 160 million guests a year.

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Oberthur Card Systems and NovaCard Team

NovaCard and Oberthur Card Systems have formed a partnership to meet the rapidly growing demands of the Russian market. The deal combines NovaCard’s production facilities in Nizhniy Novgorod with Oberthur Card Systems’ expertise in EMV card development and chip card personalization solutions. The two companies will also collaborate in the mobile sector. Combining Oberthur Card Systems’ status of market innovator in the SIM card industry with NovaCards’ position as a key supplier to the local market will provide wireless carriers in the region with targeted solutions for increasing “Average Revenue Per User.”

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Smart Cards Drive Card Manufacturing Revenues

Last year, approximately 11.7 billion cards were manufactured worldwide, a 9.3% increase over 2002, but when measured in U.S. dollars, the global card market soared by 27% to $6.1 billion during the same period. North America led the world with 6.2 billion cards manufactured followed by Europe with 2.6 billion. However, Europe continues to be the most lucrative market. The International Card Manufacturers Association “Sixth Annual Global Market Survey” found that traditional cards represented 84% of the total units, smart cards 16%, non-secure cards 43%, and financial hologram cards 12%. However, smart cards, due to their higher cost, represented 79% of the dollars on a global basis.

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SSB Group Licenses ACI Proactive Risk Manager

SSB Group, the largest card processor in Europe, has licensed ACI’s “Proactive Risk Manager” software to address the increasing levels of card fraud in Europe and offer additional fraud detection and prevention services to its core customer base of 200 European banks.
SSB will deploy ACI “Proactive Risk Manager for Debit and Credit Card
Fraud Detection” at its headquarters in Milan to track domestic and
international card transactions for potential fraud activity. SSB handled over 30 million payment cards and 5 billion transactions in 2003.

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Citi Launches the Dividend Merchant Network

Citibank took cash-back rewards to a new level with the introduction of a new merchant network that enables cardholders to earn an extra 5% to 7% at hundreds of the e-tailers, retailers, and cataloguers. The “Citi Dividend Merchant Network,” created for cardholders of the “Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard,” carries no annual cap on the cash-back earned through the special merchant network. Cardholders must activate the merchant program to earn the bonus rewards. Under the current “Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard” program, cardholders receive 5% cash-back on all gas, supermarket, and drug store purchases as well as 1% cash-back on all other purchases; $5 “Dividend Dollars” for each balance transfer of $1,500 or more, and 1% cash-back on all cash advances taken at the standard cash rate. Cardholders are limited to $300 in cash-back rewards earned per calendar year.

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Western Union Financial Granted a Banking License

Western Union Financial Services has been granted a banking
license by Finanzmarktaufsicht Behorde. Initially, Western Union, together with the Western Union agents, will focus on expanding the company’s core money transfer business, both at retail locations and
on-line. The license provides an opportunity to represent agents and the
Western Union business within the European financial services community.

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70% of Gen Xers Revolve Credit Card Balances

Credit card debt among young adults between the age of 25 and 34 has increased 55%, and among the youngest adults, between 18 and 24, it has more than doubled since 1992. The average indebted young-adult household (aged 25-34) now spends almost a quarter of every dollar earned on debt payments while the youngest adult households (aged 18-24) spend nearly 30 cents of every dollar earned servicing debt. The findings come from a new report from New York City-based Demos. The report found that a growing number of Gen-Xers carry a credit card balance. Slightly more than 70% revolve their balances, compared to 55% of all cardholders. Among other key findings: among the two-thirds of young-adult households (aged 25-34) with incomes below $50,000, nearly one in five spend more than 40% of their income servicing debt, including mortgages and student loans, and Americans aged 25-34 have the second highest rate of bankruptcy (just after those aged 35 to 44).

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AXALTO 3Q/04

Axalto, formerly Schlumberger Smart Cards, reported that third quarter revenue increased 15% to $238.7 million. Financial card revenues grew 17% from $40.1 million for 3Q/03 to $47.1 million for the third quarter of this year. POS terminal revenues soared 176% to $26.5 million. This terminal growth was fueled by strong sales in the EMEA region, mainly through supply contracts signed with major European financial institutions. For complete details on Axalto’s third quarter performance, visit CardData (www.carddata.com).

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VISA Invests in Vericept Corporation

VISA USA has invested $16.3 million into Vericept Corporation, a firm that helps companies manage risk by analyzing and monitoring network, Internet, email, chat, instant messaging, peer-to-peer file sharing, FTP, and telnet traffic. Vericept enables enterprises to gain control over various risks associated with regulatory compliance violations, corporate governance concerns, internal policy infractions, information leaks and unacceptable Internet use. Vericept’s solutions prevent the loss of valuable information assets and intellectual property as well as help protect the brand and reputation of an enterprise. Tery Larrew, president and CEO of Vericept says that Vericept and Visa will be exploring opportunities about how Vericept technology can be utilized to address the needs of Visa, its member financial institutions, and their customers. Visa is the world’s leading payment brand and largest payment system. Cardholders in over 150 countries have over 1 billion Visa branded cards, which are accepted at millions of locations all over the world. Vericept Corporation is a chief provider of enterprise risk management solutions.

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Smartpay Jieyin Expands to Anhui Unicom

Smartpay Jieyin has expanded its payment system to Anhui Unicom. The most significant application of the system will be the function that allows Anhui Unicom subscribers to pay their phone bills simply by sending an SMS message. Smartpay operates China’s first multi-province mobile payment system. Subscribers in Shanghai and Anhui can now refill their mobile phone accounts and purchase pre-paid mobile “top-up” cards, long distance VOIP minutes, ISP access, online gaming time, and other products and pay conveniently and electronically, using Smartpay. ICBC, the largest bank in Anhui, is already fully integrated into the system, and other large banks will be added in the next month.

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34% of Credit Files Have New Delinquency Posted

New research has found that 55% of U.S. consumers have at least one delinquency on their credit file, and 34% have a delinquency in the last year. Experian Consumer Direct says its “PLUS Score” for consumers with one delinquency in the last year is 598 versus 759 for those with no delinquent payments. Experian’s score can range from 330 to 830, with the average for U.S. consumers at 677. Experian created its “National Score Index” for consumers last year. It is based on the “PLUS Score,” which provides a picture of consumer credit worthiness by region, state, or metro area. A nationwide sampling of three million consumer profiles are used for the “Index.”

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More Consumers Buy Gift Cards for Themselves

The number of consumers who purchase gift cards for themselves has skyrocketed from 2% in 2003 to 21% this year. Of these self-givers, one in five say they use the cards to purchase cheaper gas from large discounters where cash and credit are not accepted at the pump. The findings come from the annual gift card survey conducted by Comdata’s Stored Value Systems. The SVS study found 75% of U.S. consumers, 15 years old and older, have now either purchased or received a gift card compared to 68% in 2003. About 60% of gift card purchasers buy gift cards for relatives outside of their immediate family and 44% purchase gift cards for friends. The average holiday gift card spending is expected to rise by 20% this year to $223. This year, the average card load is $42. SVS also found that 50% of gift card recipients always or often spend more than the value of the card and make up the difference with their own money. More than 40% of those who receive gift cards use them up within one month of receiving it, and only about 4% keep a card without using it for more than one year. The number one occasion for gift card purchases is birthdays (84%) followed by the winter holidays (68%).

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