Audi and Bank One Launch a New VISA Card in the USA

Ingolstadt-based Audi AG announced that Audi of America and Bank One are launching a co-branded “VISA Signature Card” in the USA during May, offering an instant line of credit at the dealership which can be used as a downpayment. Furthermore, rewards generated by the new card can be redeemed for payments toward an automobile loan or lease. The new “Audi VISA Signature Card” rewards cardholders with two points for every dollar spent at participating Audi dealers and “Audi Collection” purchases, and one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Points can also be redeemed for vehicle service or maintenance, driving experiences, or tickets to the “12 Hours of Sebring.” Additionally, rewards can be used in the form of discounts on brand name merchandise, airline tickets, hotels, restaurants, and retail gift cards. Points can be redeemed at the minimum 2,500 point level. Approved cardholders also receive an initial instant credit line of up to $5,000 that can be used at the dealerships for Audi purchases, for which they will receive double points. Beginning in May, participating Audi dealerships across the country will feature instant credit applications, enabling consumers to apply for the “Audi VISA Signature Card” when applying for Audi credit for an automobile loan or lease. The “VISA Signature” product is a hybrid credit-charge card with no preset spending limit.

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STAR Systems Launches an ATM Management Service

First Data’s STAR Systems has become the only ATM processor to offer remote ATM management. The new STAR service enables deployers to customize content and graphics on demand, install software upgrades or patches, distribute audio files, and re-boot or shut down terminals, all from a single-server location. The service builds upon on-demand solutions from Computer Associates, offering compatibility with Windows-based machines made by any ATM manufacturer. Other features of STAR;s on-demand ATM control include the ability to pull reports directly from the ATM, display the last marketing campaign, and provide the ability to manage delivery rates of new content to enable the ATM to continue conducting transactions while new content is delivered. STAR also collaborated with CA Technology Services to develop an interface to STAR’s management portal, “STAR STATION,” making it easy for ATM operators to securely alter ATM screen content on-schedule or on-the-fly. The new STAR service is already up and running at nearly 200 PNC ATMs deployed at Wawa stores and Thorntons Inc. stores.

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Cash Systems Hits a Lucky Seven

MN-based Cash Systems has signed seven new casino contracts. New contracts include Keeneland Racecourse, Lexington, KY; Nevada Palace Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV; Horsemen’s Park, Omaha, NE; and Pony Express Bet, Portland, OR. In addition to these casinos, Cash Systems obtained agreements to provide credit and debit card cash advance services at three other gaming locations. Cash Systems, Inc. has grown from a regional ATM provider to one of four cash access companies serving the gaming industry.

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TSYS Debt Management Expands in 1Q/04

TSYS Debt Management reports it added 147 employees during the first quarter, primarily for collections and bankruptcy processing. The company’s growth has led to the opening of a new office located at 2975 Breckinridge Boulevard in Duluth, Ga., in Gwinnett County. The 25,721-square-foot collections office features a well-appointed call center with state-of-the-art equipment and systems. TSYS brings integrity and innovation to the world of electronic payment services as the integral link between buyers and sellers in this rapidly evolving universe.

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Marks & Spencer’s New &more Card Enlists a New Ad Agency

Edinburgh-based advertising agency, Story, has been signed to promote the new “Marks & Spencer &more MasterCard.” The agency will focus on converting existing Marks & Spencer’s store cardholders to the new bank credit card. Marks & Spencer Money launched the new rewards MasterCard card in September. The “&more” card offers 1 loyalty point per 1 GBP spent with Marks & Spencer, and 1 loyalty point per 2 GBP spent elsewhere. The “&more” points can be converted into vouchers to spend exclusively at Marks & Spencer UK stores. The new card offers an APR of 14.9% and no annual fee. M&S is the second largest store card issuer in the UK. Marks & Spencer Money tangled with the Office of Fair Trading over its decision to force convert store cardholders to the new MasterCard.

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Q Comm Adds Three Board Members

UT-based Q Comm International has named William Jurika, Gary Crook and Steven Phillips to its board. Jurika & Voyles grew to manage over $7 billion in assets for private and institutional clients. Crook has a strong background in finance having served as the CFO of SOS Staffing, guiding the company from its 1995 IPO on Nasdaq and through subsequent secondary offerings. Phillips has in-depth legal and international business development experience. Presently he serves as the assistant general counsel of CMS Energy, a multi-billion dollar global energy company. Q Comm International provides proprietary prepaid transaction processing and information management systems that facilitate electronic recharge or distribution of prepaid products from service providers or their distributors to retail points of sale.

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Certegy Signs Processing Deal with Travis CU

Atlanta-based Certegy has inked a new three-year processing agreement with Travis Credit Union of Vacaville, CA. Certegy’s Premier Internet Banking solution allows for the integrated delivery of various online services — including electronic bill payment and credit card information — from a single, easy to use platform. Certegy provides credit and debit processing, check risk management and check cashing services, merchant processing and e-banking services to nearly 7,000 financial institutions, 117,000 retailers and 100 million consumers worldwide. Travis Credit Union of Vacaville, California serves members in a nine- county area including Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Napa, Contra Costa, and Merced Counties. Its membership is open to individuals living, working, or attending school in those areas.

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Tax Cuts Artificially Propping-Up Consumer Spending

Credit card volume may decline in the fall, the first deceleration in consumer spending since the spring 2003, after the stimulus of tax cuts wears off. A monthly index of consumer spending finds that the US economy may have reached an inflection point. Deloitte Research’s “Consumer Spending Index” rose 4.89% in March, down slightly from a revised gain of 5.03% in the previous month, but somewhat higher than December’s 4.82%. The index is a composite of tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages and real home prices. Deloitte says total tax refunds are still expected to run up to 50% more than the prior year, but will be slow in coming and will have little, if any, effect on fall spending. However, home prices are still rising sharply, which creates a pool of future cash from which consumers can draw upon. But, real wages are up a very modest 0.2% from a year ago. Deloitte also notes that declines in unemployment claims continue to contribute to slowed consumer spending growth. Last year, credit card volume for bank credit cards in the USA rose only 6.9%, from $1,427 million to $1,525 million, according to CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

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

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Citi Opens its Home Rebate MasterCard to the Public

Citigroup has introduced a new consumer credit card to the general public that links a rebate feature to the cardholder’s mortgage, regardless of the provider. The “Citi Home Rebate Platinum Select MasterCard” offers a full 1% rebate on all purchases, with no annual or lifetime cap. The card was previously introduced to CitiMortgage customers in January. The card carries no annual fee and 0% interest rate on purchases and balance transfers through November 2004. The go-to APR is prime +6.99%. Citi is inviting consumers to check out its on-line mortgage savings calculator to estimate savings.

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Equitex and Cash Systems Settle Lawsuits

Equitex, Inc. announced, in conjunction with its subsidiary, Chex Services, Inc., that they have executed a Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release with Cash Systems, Inc. related to termination of a Stock Purchase Agreement signed in July 2003, as well as termination of a contract to provide cash access services to the Seminole Tribe of Florida casinos.

Terms of the agreement call for each company to mutually release the other and dismiss each other from various lawsuits filed by the parties. The Company and Chex retained the right to pursue claims against Native American Cash Systems, Inc., Native American Cash Systems Florida, Inc. and Lisa G. Maulson related to the Seminole Tribe of Florida casino termination.

Equitex, Inc. is a holding company operating through its wholly owned subsidiary Chex Services of Minnetonka, Minnesota, as well as its majority owned subsidiary Denaris Corporation. Chex Services provides comprehensive cash access services to casinos and other gaming facilities. Denaris was formed to provide stored value card services.

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Implantable VeriPay Chip Deployed in Spain

VeriChip Corporation announced the first deployment of its syringe-injectable ID and payment microchip implant for humans at a Baja Beach Clubs night club in Spain. The VeriPay System is a new syringe-injectable microchip implant for humans, designed to be used as a fraud-proof payment method for cash and credit-card transactions. The chip implant is an advance over credit cards and smart cards, which, absent biometrics and appropriate safeguard technologies, are subject to theft, resulting in identity fraud. Applied Digital Solutions is an advanced technology development company that focuses on a range of early warning alert, miniaturized power sources and security monitoring systems combined with the comprehensive data management services required to support them.

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