Equifax InterConnect Introduced for Businesses

Equifax has introduced “Equifax InterConnect,” enabling businesses to simultaneously process applications, integrate customer intelligence, make credit-granting decisions and open new accounts, at the point of sale. Designed as an outsourced, application service provider offering, the technology combines data integration, workflow management, and analytics and decisioning capabilities. InterConnect is “data agnostic,” allowing customers of all sizes to gain access to an extensive range of data sources, enabling more accurate decisioning and increased cross-selling opportunities. Equifax Inc. is a global leader in turning information into intelligence.

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Universal Default Policies Spreading

San Francisco-based Consumer Action yesterday released its new annual “Credit Card Survey” that found 31% of banks said a penalty rate could be triggered by just one late payment, while 35.5% said that it would take two late payments in consecutive months or in a six-month period to cause a rate increase. The survey also found that 58% of surveyed banks now have a cut-off time on the due date for late payments. Consumer Action also found that 44% of the banks surveyed use “universal default” policies to increase interest rates based on their customers’ poor payment records with other creditors. The group says 51% of the surveyed institutions will not provide a firm APR until they have screened the applicant’s credit history. Only 39% of surveyed issuers had this policy last year. Additionally, Consumer Action found that 26 surveyed banks are adding their own foreign currency conversion charges that are separate from MasterCard and VISA fees. The number has grown since last year’s survey, which found 17 issuers with currency conversion fees.

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OCC Clamps Down on a Sub-Prime Program

Las Vegas-based First National Bank of Marin has been ordered by the OCC to stop charging customer security deposits to credit cards. The bank is also prohibited from charging interest on security deposits that were previously charged to credit cards and has been ordered to pay restitution to credit card customers harmed by unfair practices. The OCC Order requires the bank to set aside at least $10 million to fund restitution payments to customers who, as part of a credit card program operated by the bank, were charged interest on a $200 “security deposit” that the bank encouraged customers to charge to the card. The bank offered secured credit cards to individuals with impaired credit histories, and encouraged them to charge the $200 security deposit to the card. After adding various fees that were also charged to the card, customers who received the bank’s minimum credit line of $260 had only $2.50 in credit available for their use. In its solicitations, the bank promoted the ability to charge the security deposit to the card as a benefit to customers.

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Penthouse iBill Released from VISA’s RIS

Following the first quarter purchase of iBill from InterCept, Penthouse International says there have been positive developments since March 31st. Penthouse says iBill was notified by its processing bank and VISA that it is the first IPSP to be released from the VISA “RIS” program. As a result, iBill will no longer be assessed a monthly fee of $100,000, or $1,200,000 annually. Penthouse also noted that iBill has entered into contracts to sell its transaction processing services to several new merchants representing approximately $21.0 million in estimated new incremental revenues over the next twelve months. Penthouse’s Media Billing subsidiary paid $23.5 million for all of the outstanding member interests of iBill. The Penthouse/Media Billing deal includes $0.7 million in cash, a $0.8 million short-term note, and assumption of a $22.0 million working capital deficit. (CF Library 3/23/04)

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STAR Renews Cardtronics’ 12,000 ATMs

Houston-based Cardtronics has renewed its agreement with First Data’s Star Systems. Under the terms of the long-term agreement, the “STAR Network” will continue to provide PIN-secured debit access at Cardtronics’ 12,000 ATMs. Last month, Star Systems renewed its agreement with KeyBank to continue providing PIN-secured debit access at retailers and ATMs, and ATM and signature debit card processing for the bank’s 2,200 ATMs and 4.6 million credit and debit cards. Also during April, Star Systems renewed its contract with Union Bank of California for PIN-secured debit access at retailers and ATMs, and ATM and signature debit card processing for the bank’s 560 ATMs and 1.2 million ATM and signature debit cards. Earlier this month, First Data reported that during the first quarter, Peoples Bank and Bank of America notified the Company of their intention to deconvert the their bank card portfolios. Approximately 2 million bank card accounts related to Peoples are expected to be deconverted in the third quarter of this year and approximately 12 million bank card accounts related to FleetBoston are expected to be deconverted in the second quarter of 2005. (CF Library 4/6/04; 4/8/04; 5/10/04)

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Citibank Launches a Limited Edition VISA 2004 Olympic Card

Citibank has launched the limited edition “Citibank VISA 2004 Olympic Card,” the first of its kind in India. “Go Athens! Card” members who sign up the card before July 15th can enter a slogan contest which will give them the opportunity to win the grand sweepstake prize ­ a fully paid four-day package to Athens including tickets to watch some of the events live. VISA is an official sponsor of the “2004 Olympics” being hosted in August, in Athens, Greece and is also the exclusive payment card and official payment service.

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Anheuser-Busch Asia Launches a Visible Loyalty Card

Anheuser-Busch Asia has launched the re-writeable “Bud Fresh Rewards Card” from KS-based Visible Results USA in Guam. Consumers 18 and older will earn one point for each beer they buy in the Bud family Budweiser, Bud Light or Bud Ice. Cardholders may win dozens of different prizes instantly, and can accumulate points for other rewards, which range from a can coolie to a BBQ grill and a fully-loaded Mazda 3s Sport Wagon. Bud purchasers can accrue points or win instant prizes at any of the more than 150 bars, restaurants, and stores on the island that are participating in the “Bud Fresh Rewards” program.

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MC THAILAND

Despite an overall decline in MasterCard’s 2003 gross dollar volume in Asia-Pacific, Thailand has produced extraordinary results over the past two years. MasterCard reports that GDV across all platforms in Thailand surged 79% last year to $3.8 billion as the number of cards more than doubled to 3.1 million. Excluding 129,000 “Maestro” cards, MasterCard processed $3.5 billion in GDV. Since 1999, the number of MasterCard-branded cards, excluding “Maestro, have exploded ten-fold, from less than 300,000 cards. In 2002, the number of MasterCards, excluding Maestro, doubled, as GDV quadrupled. The Asia/Pacific region, with 122.0 million cardholders, reported GDV of $213.1 billion last year, a 9.0% decline.

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Encore Names New SVP/Collection Operations

San Diego-based Encore Capital Group has hired Anna Hansen as SVP/Collection Operations, responsible for Encore’s call centers, direct mail & legal collection channels. Hansen was most recently at Gateway, Inc., where she served as Director of Retail Inventory Management, and was responsible for optimizing inventory replenishment for all of Gateway’s retail stores. Hansen received her MS in Aeronautics & Astronautics from MIT and her BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle. Encore Capital Group, Inc. is an accounts receivable management firm that specializes in purchasing charged-off and defaulted consumer debt.

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New Wireless POS Solution Runs on Bell Mobility’s 1X Digital Network

Bell Mobility announced that its digital 1X network will power the first wireless POS device in Canada that incorporates voice, data and messaging services. Working with TD Canada Trust Merchant Services, the NBS Technologies “Freedom II Wireless Point of Sale Terminal” allows merchants to perform secure credit and debit card transactions or place a voice call from this all in one device from any location on Bell Mobility’s 1X digital network. In addition to processing transactions, the NBS Technologies’ “Freedom II”
CDMA terminal also functions as a mobile phone, which is of particular value to delivery and courier markets. Instead of equipping a delivery person with a POS terminal for card acceptance and a cell phone for communication, one device now does both.

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Coinstar Buys an Amusement Vending Firm

WA-based Coinstar this morning announced the acquisition of American Coin Merchandising for $235 million in cash. Combined, Coinstar and ACMI will have over 40,000 distribution points. ACMI, a/k/a SugarLoaf Creations, has more than 167,000 coin-operated amusement vending machines in 18,000 locations in the USA. Coinstar owns and operates a network of nearly 11,000 automated self-service coin-counting machines for consumers. The Company also distributes a wide variety of prepaid products through POS and self-service kiosks in over 13,000 drugstores, universities, shopping malls and convenience stores, bringing the total to over 24,000 distribution points throughout the USA, UK, and Canada. ACMI had $220 million in annual revenue through March 31st and has 1,150 employees. The combination offer coin counting, e-payments, and amusement vending.

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BMO Bank of Montreal Finds Consumers will Tap Savings for Home Renovations

Canadians intend to use their savings to fund the more than $25 billion they are expected to spend in home renovations in 2004 as credit cards have lost luster in the home improvement market. In a recent survey, sponsored by BMO Bank of Montreal and conducted by Ipsos-Reid, more than 76% of Canadians who are planning a renovation within the next five years indicated that they intend to pay for future renovations with cash from savings. There is a wide chasm between homeowners planning to renovate in the next five years who have indicated that they intend to pay for future renovations with cash from savings and those who indicated they will borrow the money to fund their renovations. These Canadian homeowners expressed a declining preference for utilizing: a line of credit (7%); a personal loan (6%); a credit card (5%); or, a home equity loan (4%) to fund their planned renovations over the next five years.

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