OPEN Executive Business Card is Upgraded

American Express has beefed-up its “OPEN Executive Business Card.” The card, designed for business owners who are frequent travelers, now offers a complimentary companion ticket, benefits in the Starwood “Preferred Business Program”, and free roadside assistance. The card currently offers automatic savings for purchases with AT&T, FedEx, Hertz, and Staples access to the “Small Business Dashboard” and expense management reports, free linkage to the “Membership Rewards” program for all additional cards on the account, and complimentary membership in the Hertz “#1 Club Gold” and National Car “Emerald Club.”

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Australian Regulators Now Target Debit Interchange

After declaring VISA debit cards as a “payment system” earlier this year, the Reserve Bank of Australia this week designated the entire EFT/POS debit card business as a “payment system.” The decision means that fees charged for EFT/POS transactions on the 24.7 million debit card accounts currently in use in Australia will now be subject to regulation. In deciding to designate the EFT/POS system, the Payments System Board concluded that current interchange arrangements are not conducive to the efficiency of the overall payments system. In particular, the nature of the interchange arrangements contribute to the effective price that cardholders are charged for payments using EFT/POS being higher than for payments using credit cards. The Board says the EFT/POS system has relatively lower costs. The Board judged that a narrowing of this differential in relative prices and costs would promote the efficiency of the overall payments system. The Board opted not to declare the ATM system a “payment system” at this time. During June, Australians used debit cards for $4.0 billion in EFT/POS in 83.2 million debit card transactions. In June, debit cards were used for $3.0 billion in purchases among 69 million transactions.

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Co-branded Airline Cards are Costly for Revolvers

A new survey by CardTrak ([www.cardtrak.com][1]) found that the average annual fee charged for an airline co-branded bank credit card is $51.09 and that the average interest rate is 14.35%. All of the 11 airlines in the survey used a variable rate structure, with prime +9.99% the most common. Of the 11 banks issuing the cards, their lowest card pricing carried an interest rate of 8.46%. About half the issuers offered low fixed rates instead of variable rates on their lowest interest rate cards. All of the lowest rate cards offered by banks, involved in airline-sponsored cards, charged no annual fee. The survey found that consumers revolving a $3,000 balance and charging $1,050 per month paid, on average, $70 more to earn a free ticket rather than paying for the ticket.

[1]: http://www.cardtrak.com

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MasterCard Adds a San Francisco Debit Card Issuer

San Francisco-based Bank of the West is migrating its debit card program to MasterCard. The Bank serves 450,000 debit cardholders and offers 355 ATM locations and 296 branches in California, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington State, and Idaho. The parties are also exploring additional debit program possibilities, such as commercial, prepaid, reward-based, and brokerage debit cards. As part of the multi-year agreement, MasterCard Advisors, the professional services affiliate of MasterCard International, will support conversion of existing debit cards for Bank of the West, as well as the soon-to-be- acquired portfolios of Union Safe Deposit Bank and Community First Bankshares. MasterCard added 1.5 million debit card accounts during the second quarter to bring its portfolio to 51.1 million accounts. During the second quarter, MasterCard processed more than 500 million debit card transactions in the USA. For complete details on MasterCard’s 2Q/04 results, visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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Payment Data Systems Releases CSR View

San Antonio-based Payment Data Systems has released its proprietary “Customer Service Representative View” system that allows billers and merchants to view current credit card and ACH transactions online without the installation of any software. Key product features and functions available to users include enter and view credit card payments, enter and view credit card authorizations, and establishing and managing repeating or recurring payments for customers. CSR View also provides comprehensive search tools to locate ACH and credit card transactions entered in the system using various searchable information such as the date of transaction, the account number, first or last name, transaction confirmation number, and email address. Payment Data Solutions is an Integrated Payments Solutions Provider that delivers comprehensive, cost-effective solutions to billers and retailers.

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SunTrust and Skylight Team for Payroll Cards

SunTrust Banks has selected Skylight Financial to provide a distinctive direct deposit pay card program. SunTrust is offering the program to its base of corporate and institutional clients. Skylight provides all the processing, implementation, servicing, and support for all of the accounts. People who have direct deposit through this program will enjoy a financial service option in lieu of costly and inconvenient check cashing services for paychecks or government benefits. In addition, the Skylight “bank account in a card (R)” can be used to withdraw cash at ATMs. Accounts are owned by the employee and are FDIC-insured through SunTrust. Skylight has customers in 46 states in the U.S. and over 60% of Fortune 100 companies have employees that use a Skylight account.

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CECP and Oberthur Launch the Reference Project

Caisse d’Epargne et des Cheques Postaux is deploying the first biometric smart card in financial services. The country’s top financial institution has inked a contract with Oberthur Card Systems for 500,000
cards and 300 biometric readers. CECP has 200 branches throughout the
country. Oberthur developed a solution that provides two-level
authentication of the cardholder with both a photograph and
fingerprints. After a three-month pilot deemed successful by both
customers and employees of Abidjan’s main branch, the bank will deploy
the project, known as “Reference,” in all of its branches.

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