ECHO Upgrades Web Site

Electronic Clearing House has launched an upgraded corporate Web site. ECHO’s website has been re-designed in order to improve navigation, to provide better presentation of the Company’s products and services, to maximize the site’s appeal to visitors of diverse interests and needs, and to enhance the Investor Relations section of the website. ECHO’s enhanced Investor Relations page links to information critical to investors, such as Annual Reports, SEC Filings, Stock Quotes and Charts, Analyst Coverage and Frequently Asked Questions. ECHO ([www.echo-inc.com][1]) provides a complete solution to the payment processing needs of merchants, banks and collection agencies.

[1]: http://www.echo-inc.com

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Stage Stores Sells Peebles’ Portfolio and Inks Long-Term Deal with ADS

Stage Stores has signed a deal to sell its recently acquired 180,000 account Peebles’ private label credit card portfolio to Alliance Data Systems, and entered into a relationship agreement with ADS through September 2013. Alliance also provides private label credit card services for Stage Stores’ other retail brands, including Bealls, Palais Royal and Stage. Stage Stores, Inc. brings nationally recognized brand name apparel, accessories, cosmetics and footwear for the entire family to small and mid-size towns and communities through 522 stores located in 27 states. Alliance Data Systems is a leading provider of transaction services, credit services and marketing services.

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Fee Income Rises 7%, Tops $43 Billion in 2003

U.S. credit card issuers produced an estimated $43.1 billion in fee income last year, a 7% increase over 2002. Penalty fee income is expected to hit $11.7 billion, while the largest category of fee income, interchange income, should come in around $21.6 billion. According to R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, other fee income for 2003 will include cash advance fee income of $5.6 billion, annual fees income of $3.4 billion, and fee income from enhancements of $860 million. Hammer estimates interest income for 2003 to be $80.1 billion. He says that total income (including interest and all fees) will produce a 17.60% ROA in 2003, or $123.2 billion for the year, before expenses. Roughly one-third of that is fee income based; and approximately two-thirds of the total revenue stream is for interest income on balances that revolve and incur finance charges.

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Family Dollar Deploys New Terminals with Expanded Services

Family Dollar has installed 10,000 VeriFone “Omni 3750” terminals in less than eight weeks and is now offering value-added services such as EBT and pre-paid telco services. Family Dollar is one of the fastest growing discount store chains in the United States, operating 5,051 outlets in 43 states from Maine to Arizona. VeriFone, Inc. provides expertise, solutions and services for today with a smart migration strategy for tomorrow. VeriFone is leading the industry in the delivery of solutions that add value to the point of sale, resulting in improved merchant retention and the generation of new sources of revenue for its partners and customers.

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Web-Enabled VISA Information Management Unveiled

VISA USA unveiled the Web-based “VISA Information Management” service to enable financial institutions to offer sophisticated Web-service technology that makes it easier for their business customers to integrate VISA reporting tools into existing organizational processes and improve their procurement and payment procedures. The service, which can be used either on its own or in conjunction with custom developed solutions from Visa’s leading financial institutions, helps businesses and government agencies achieve greater efficiency and lower their administrative overheads. Visa is the world’s leading payment brand and largest consumer payment system, enabling banks to provide their consumer and merchant customers with a wide variety of payment alternatives.

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First Contactless Gift Card Introduced This Week

ViVOtech has launched the industry’s first contactless gift card solution. The new “ViVOgiftcard” solution enables retailers to differentiate their gift card product, enhance loyalty programs, and provide a means to measure these programs. ViVOtech also announced a contactless gift card called “ViVOcard,” a key element of the solution that allows rolling gift cards from complementary retailers into one single gift card that can be used at various locations of multiple retailers. The “ViVOpay” reader, “ViVOplatform” and “ViVOcard” integrate seamlessly with existing systems and POS infrastructure to allow usage of this gift card at complementary retailers.

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JCB Emergency Assist 24 Launched

JCB will launch a new, enhanced global support service for lost and stolen cards on January 10th. The new “JCB Emergency Assist 24” service will offer cash advances, translation support when reporting
to local police, help in contacting family and friends, as well as assistance in applying for passport reissue. The new service can be used to arrange for a cash advance, with no card required, of up to US$700 that
can be picked up at more than 150,000 locations in 187 countries and territories. “JCB Emergency Assist 24” will be available only for JCB cards issued by JCB or JCB franchisee companies within Japan, although JCB is reviewing the possibility of extending the system to cards issued in other countries. Service will be provided by Travelex Global and Financial Services, Ltd., based in Peterborough, UK, which offers high-quality
traveler assistance in 25 languages. JCB has 48.4 million cardholders.

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The Royal Philips Electronics and VISA Partnership Produces Fruit

The alliance formed in May between Royal Philips Electronics and VISA has produced proofs of concept. The two firms have been looking for applications that integrate Philips’ “Near Field Communication” technology and VISA’s “Verified by Visa” authentication service. The two proofs of concept developed so far have ticketing and travel applications. Mobile phone users can pay for concert or movie tickets at the box office simply by holding their phone next to the payment terminal. The contactless chip in the phone transfers VISA payment data to the terminal and, once payment is confirmed, sends the tickets back to the phone. The phone user can then transfer a ticket using NFC to a friend’s mobile phone. Payment is made by a new VISA person-to-person payment concept. Once at the venue, both ticket holders can use their phones to gain access and may also receive an electronic discount coupon for an on-site merchant. In the second proof of concept, travelers can book and pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms using their home PC, an NFC enabled mouse and a contactless VISA payment card. The tickets and airline information are transferred from the PC to the VISA card using NFC and stored on the card’s chip using “VISA Smart Secure Storage.” The card is then used for airline check-in, to board the flight and to check-in at the hotel. The hotel room key can be transferred to the traveler’s mobile phone using NFC and the phone can then be used to access the room. On departure, the hotel can transfer a receipt to the phone and, once at home, the traveler can transfer the receipt from the phone to a PC for expense reporting all made possible by NFC. The two organizations are showcasing proofs of concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Among the partners working with Philips and VISA is global entertainment company Universal Music France.

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Contopronto Sets Eyes on Australia to Expand its Mobile Banking Technology

Oslo-based Contopronto wants to take its mobile banking technology down under. The e-banking company was recently granted the first-ever E-banking license allowing for payments and money transfers to any bank, credit card, business or individual through mobile phones from Europe. The “E-Money License” was issued by the Norwegian Royal Ministry of Finance. The system will shortly be available in taxis in 25 cities in Norway. Currently, McDonald’s, Peppe’s Pizza, and Norway’s number one loyalty program, “Trumf,” are participating in Contopronto’s e-banking system.

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MARTA Smart Card Contract Gets Underway

Thales e-Transactions’ request for a permanent injunction against MARTA in regard to the bidding for a new smart card-based fare collection system was denied yesterday. The decision paves the way for Cubic Transportation Systems to proceed on the $72.5 million contract to replace MARTA’s existing magnetic ticketing and token-based system with smart card ticketing technology. Cubic says the contract could be worth as much as $104 million if all options are exercised. Thales claimed MARTA did not follow proper procedures in the contract award and was looking to re-bid the contract. Thales’ legal challenge delayed the start of the contract by four months.

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NCR Files a Patent Infringement Lawsuit Over an Ingenico Terminal

Paris-based Ingenico is facing a patent infringement lawsuit from NCR over its “e(N)-Touch 1000” terminal. The NCR patent, issued in March, covers the transmission of an electronic credit card receipt with the captured electronic signature as a single integrated record. Ingenico says its terminal has never linked the signature and receipt in this manner. The Company says it is in the process of contacting its customers so that they are aware of and understand NCR’s “over-reaching” claim. Ingenico recently shipped its 300,000th “e(N)-Touch 1000” touch screen and signature capture terminal to major retailers in the USA. Ingenico says it will vigorously defend itself. Ingenico operates in the USA from Atlanta.

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