AmEx Cards Become the Official Card of Tourism to Australia

American Express and the Australian Tourist Commission have inked a deal to make the “American Express Card” the “Official Card of Tourism to Australia.” The first market to benefit from the partnership will be the U.S., with another five markets to follow in year two, and global activity by year three. In the first year of the partnership American Express and the ATC will launch nearly 40 separate marketing initiatives to reach U.S. consumers, including both online and direct mail communications, that will aim messages
and offerings to both experienced and new travelers to Australia. With the purchase of any one of a variety of special Australian vacations through American Express Travel, cardholders receive double membership rewards points, a statement credit of up to $150 on qualifying vacations, and, an “Australian Vacations Values Card” which offers a range of exclusive values on shopping, dining and sightseeing across Australia, including 2 for 1 savings on some of Australia’s best and most unique experiences.

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GM Commercial Truck Dealers use Ecount STV Cards

Ecount is now providing stored-value cards and management services to GMC, Chevrolet, and Isuzu commercial truck dealers, including 3,000 sales professionals. GM’s commercial truck dealers are among the country’s pioneers in the effective use of stored-value debit cards for sales incentives and commissions. Ecount provides products and services that enable organizations to easily and electronically move cash to employees and consumers in order to motivate, compensate and reward.

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Andrews FCU Joins the Allpoint ATM Network

Andrews Federal Credit Union has joined the Allpoint Network surcharge-free ATM network, bringing the total number of people in the Washington area with surcharge-free access at Allpoint ATMs to over 350,000. Allpoint was created to provide customers of financial institutions with little or no ATM presence with greater access, convenience, and savings, while enabling their financial institution to compete more effectively with larger banks. Allpoint’s unique membership structure makes it very cost effective for a financial institution to join and easy for their customers to use. llpoint is America’s Largest Surcharge-Free ATM Network, with more than 25,000 ATMs in leading national and regional merchant locations across the country.

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Payroll Card Regulations Remain Cloudy at Best

The OCC released an advisory last week cautioning banks on the risks associated with payroll or prepaid cards. The OCC said banks need to address compliance issues and any role of nonbank third parties. The OCC says the involvement of nonbanks in payroll cards can significantly increase risks to cardholders and to banks if, for example, the nonbank should become insolvent. The OCC also noted that there are a number of unsettled regulatory issues involving payroll cards including when FDIC deposit insurance is available to cardholders, whether “Regulation E” applies to payroll card systems, whether “Section 326 of the Patriot Act” (verification of new customers) applies, and whether “Regulation CC” (Availability of Funds) applies. The OCC says that while waiting for further guidance on the application of various laws and regulations to payroll card systems, banks may decide to comply with the substance of those laws and regulations to protect the bank against reputation risk and future compliance risk.

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IDRBT Selects Euronet to Implement a National Financial Switch

The Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology, the technology arm of Reserve Bank of India, has signed a deal for Euronet Worldwide to implement a national financial switch in the country. IDRBT selected Euronet to provide the two-part turnkey solution for the NFS, which will create a neutral platform that enables banks to connect their own switches to the NFS. The NFS will contain both an integrated inter-ATM switch and an Internet and e-commerce payment gateway, which will act as an e-commerce facilitator to authenticate and route payment details between banks and various parties. This two-part solution is believed to be the first of its kind at a national infrastructure level. The installed base of ATMs in India is estimated to be over 15,000 units and this number of ATMs has been growing at over 50% for the last three years. New private banks have been the biggest deployers and more recently public sector banks and old private banks are implementing aggressive plans to install ATMs. Euronet operates a shared Indian ATM network, called “Cashnet” that includes nine member banks. These banks are connected with more than 3,000 ATMs serving over 9 million cardholders across 250 cities in India.

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Glimcher Malls Offer NBO VISA Gift Cards

OH-based Glimcher Realty Trust this month rolled-out “VISA Stored Value Gift Cards” at all of its 25 malls under a three-year agreement with NBO Systems. Gift Cards offer a better alternative to traditional paper gift certificates. Card holders are able to register their gift card, offering protection from theft or loss. In addition, enhanced features enable shoppers to purchase cards on-line from each mall’s website or at http://www.glimcher.com , or by phone at 1-877-GIFT-TO-GO (1-877-443-8864). Glimcher Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust, is a recognized leader in the ownership, management, acquisition and development of enclosed regional and super-regional malls, and community shopping centers.

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Symbol Completes its Family of Payment Terminals

NY-based Symbol Technologies has unveiled two new terminals which support applications for online and offline debit/credit, signature capture, scrolling line item display, EBT, gift and loyalty programs and advertisements. The new “Symbol PD 4500” and the “Symbol PD 7000” completes the firm’s family of payment terminal devices which also includes the “Symbol PD 8500.” The “4500” has a monochrome display, while the “7000” has a color display, and both devices have traditional serial and USB connectivity. Both terminals have resistive touchpad technology with a passive stylus. All of Symbol’s payment transaction devices are “Windows CE.NET”-based. The devices incorporate a common hardware platform based on the Intel “Xscale” processor, and are compliant with VISA Online PIN or “PED”

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FDC Share Repurchases to Top $8 Billion

First Data shareholders approved the re-election of Chairman Charlie Fote and three directors including Ric Duques, Richard Kiphart, and Joan Spero. First Data’s Board of Directors also authorized a $2 billion increase in the Company’s share repurchase program. Since 1998, FDC has repurchased more than 180 million shares for $6.1 billion. Thus far, in the second quarter, the company has repurchased 7.2 million shares of stock for $320 million at an average price of $44.61. As a result, the company has $2.017 billion remaining for repurchase following approval of this new authorization. Duques previously served as chairman and CEO from 1992 until 2002 and has served on the board since April 1989. Spero joined the board in 1998, and Kiphart joined in 2004. Fote was named chairman in 2003 and CEO in 2002.

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Nautilus Hyosung Lands US Distributor for its US$20K ATM

Nautilus Hyosung has signed Atlanta-based ACG ATM-Remarketers to be a national distributor its “Ubitus 7040” ATM. ACG says the ATM is comparable in quality to that of NCR and Diebold ATM machines but costs 25% less. A walk-up, through-the-wall ATM, “Ubitus 7040” has an Intel “Pentium III” processor and runs on a “Windows XP” operating system. It has a motorized card reader, 12-inch LCD color monitor, depository and up to four 3,000-note cash cassettes. Specifically, comparable to NCR’s “Persona 86” ATM, “Ubitus 7040” is manufactured to be Triple DES compliant and configured for TCP/IP communications. An additional feature offered with the Korean machine is a digital camera that records images on the hard-drive, used as a surveillance device. ACG sells the “Ubitus 7040” for approximately $20,000, including delivery and installation and a one-year warranty on all components in the machine.

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Yields Deteriorate as Payments Set a Record

The yield on securitized credit card portfolios has fallen in thirty-one of the last thirty-two consecutive months as the consumer payment rate rises to the highest on record. For the March performance period, yields fell to 17.41% from last year’s rate of 17.78%, while cardholders paid back, on average, 16.60% of their credit card debts, well above the rate of 15.36% in March of last year. The drop in the yield (the annualized percentage of income, primarily finance charges and fees, collected during the month as a percent of the total loans) has been attributed to the low interest rate environment as well as issuers’ aggressive promotional and low, fixed rate offers. Moody’s also says the payment rate typically rises this time of year coincident with tax refund season but this year consumers have stepped up repayment of their credit card debts. Meanwhile, the charge-off rate fell to 6.73%, down from 6.97% a year ago. The March 2004 delinquency rate also fell to 4.74% from 5.43% a year ago. Moody’s says given the well-entrenched trend of improvement in performance of the delinquency rate, it is likely that the charge-off rate will also continue to improve in the near term.

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Small Businesses Poised to Spend More this Year

Fifty-six percent of respondents in a new poll believe changes in the U.S. economy will have a positive impact on their business in the next 12 months while 12% of small businesses expect that changes in the U.S. economy will have a negative impact on business in the coming year. One third of those surveyed believe economic growth has had a positive impact on business while 53% of respondents said that recent growth in the U.S. economy has had no noticeable impact on their business. The findings come from MasterCard International’s “Small Business Economic and Spend Outlook Survey” which polled U.S. businesses with annual revenue between $100,000 and $10,000,000. The study found that managing expenses/finances was cited by more than 27% of respondents as the number one concern facing small businesses. Almost three quarters of small businesses note that T&E spending has either increased or remained the same in the last six months with only 26% reporting decreases in T&E spending. MasterCard also found that 40% report using business payment cards (rather than personal payment cards) to make business purchases. More than half of small businesses surveyed receive rewards for business purchases. The majority of small businesses surveyed (54%) leverage rewards for personal use, such as vacations and cash back while about a third of small businesses are using rewards earned to purchase supplies for their company.

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Fifth Third Processing Nails Ninth VISA QPA

For the ninth consecutive year, Fifth Third Processing Solutions has received VISA’s “Service Quality Performance Award” for the highest copy request fulfillment rate among credit card processors. Visa established the Service Quality Awards Program in 1992 to recognize exceptional card operations performance by card issuers and acquiring members. The awards acknowledge consistent, superior performance and emphasize continued service and quality improvement. Visa recognizes its card issuing, card acquiring and processing members who achieve and exceed the highest performance standards in operational areas affecting cardholders and merchants. Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Company has $94 billion in assets, operates 17 affiliate banks with 978 full-service Banking Centers.

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