USA 1 Rate Migrates to Qxpress 200 Terminals

UT-based Q Comm International has inked a deal for Y202/USA 1 Rate to convert its 600 third-party retailers from scratch prepaid phone cards to electronic top up via Q Comm’s “Qxpress 200” POSA terminals. USA 1 Rate is a prepaid wireless service provider based in Farmington Hill, Michigan that was formed by its chief executive officer, Sam Konja, in 2000. The company private-labels and resells the wireless service products of Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless. With the Q Comm electronic distribution system, USA 1 Rate will save the costs of printing, managing physical inventory, and shipping or delivering hard cards that contain the service-activating PINs.

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TNB Card Services Buys Three CU Portfolios

Dallas-based TNB Card Services has purchased the card portfolios and signed agent issuing agreements with three credit unions including: TX-based Tyler City Employees CU, TX-based Cherokee Teachers FCU, and OH-based Vantage FCU. Tyler City Employees Credit Union and Cherokee Teachers Federal Credit Union are current TNB clients that have chosen TNB as their agent issuer partner. Cherokee County Teachers Federal Credit Union has been serving those who live and work in Cherokee and Rusk Counties since 1955. This $12 million credit union serves 2,500 members. Vantage Federal Credit Union is located in Brook Park, Ohio and serves over 10,000 members. This $60 million credit union will convert their 2,700 credit card accounts to TNB in March.

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ADS Gets Top Ranking in Call Center Benchmark Study

Alliance Data Systems, which provides customer service operations for more than 55 retailers’ private label credit card programs, has received “Best in Class” certification for the centers and placed among the top 10% of all call centers evaluated by Purdue University’s “BenchmarkPortal,” customer service benchmarking survey. BenchmarkPortal monitored 28 industry segments, including financial services and retail, measuring call centers for excellence in customer service against the world’s largest database of call center best practices. Alliance Data Systems (NYSE: ADS) is a leading provider of transaction services, credit services and marketing services. The company assists retail, petroleum, utility and financial services clients in managing the critical interactions between them and their customers.

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AXIS Internet Banking Earns Top Grade

Celent Communications has named Digital Insight’s “AXIS Internet Banking 4.0” as the top choice among 11 vendors evaluated for serving the online banking needs of financial institutions from de novo size to $20 billion in assets. Vendors were rated on an “A” to “C” scale. Factors considered in determining ratings included: self-service features, customer support features and financial viability. Digital Insight was the only vendor in its category to receive an “A grade.” Digital Insight(R) Corporation is the leading online banking provider for visionary financial institutions.

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Commons Treasury Select Committee Takes on the OFT and DTI Over Card Rates

The Commons Treasury Select Committee this week released a report on the credit card industry accusing the Office of Fair Trading of being passive in regulating card issuers. The report also blasted issuers for charging excessive interest rates that are difficult to decipher and compare with competing offers. The Members of Parliament on the CTSC also censured the Department of Trade and Industry saying it showed little sense of urgency in dealing with the situation. The Committee also recommended that the Financial Services Authority be given some responsibility for regulating credit cards. In September, The OFT called the current credit card interest rates “extortionate” and launched an informal inquiry into retail credit cards following complaints from Members of Parliament. The Commons Treasury Select Committee found that the average rate of interest for retail cards is about 29%, and is relatively unchanged since 1999. The highest rate of 32.5%, was charged for the Toys ‘R’ Us credit card, issued by GE Consumer Finance.

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No FDC Shareholder Approval for Amended Merger

First Data Corp. announced that the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has advised the company that it will not require First Data to obtain further shareholder approval under the NYSE’s Shareholder Approval Policy in connection with the amendment to the merger agreement entered into with Concord EFS, Inc. (NYSE: CE). No other requirements for shareholder approval apply. First Data shareholders approved the original merger agreement previously on October 28, 2003.

The transaction is subject to Concord shareholder approval.

About First Data

First Data Corp. (NYSE: FDC), with global headquarters in Denver, helps power the global economy. As a leader in electronic commerce and payment services, First Data serves approximately 3 million merchant locations, 1,400 card issuers and millions of consumers, making it easy, fast and secure for people and businesses to buy goods and services using virtually any form of payment. With 29,000 employees worldwide, the company provides credit, debit, smart card and stored-value card issuing and merchant transaction processing services; Internet commerce solutions; money transfer services; money orders; and check processing and verification services throughout the United States. First Data also offers a variety of payment services in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, the Middle East and Germany. Its Western Union and Orlandi Valuta money transfer networks include a total of approximately 169,000 agent locations in more than 195 countries and territories.

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UK Emerges as the Fastest-Growing ATM Market as Total European ATMs Near 300,000

A new research report has found that the installed base of ATMs in Europe grew 6% last year to 283,590 machines, and that Germany, Spain, UK, France and Italy now account for 77% of the region’s ATMs. Also, the UK has become the fastest-growing ATM market in western Europe with nearly 41,000 machines, and as a result, the UK overtook France last year as the region’s third-largest ATM market. Germany, the region’s largest ATM market, has 50,487 machines, and second place Spain has 49,925 installations. The study by Retail Banking Research found that during 2002 there were 10.8 billion cash withdrawals at western Europe’s ATMs, an increase of 2% on 2001. Since the installed base grew faster than the number of cash withdrawals, the average usage level fell to 3,173 withdrawals. The total value of withdrawals, however, increased by 9% to EUR1,215billion in 2002. The average value of a cash withdrawal in 2002 climbed to EUR113. Italy has the lowest number of cash withdrawals per machine, but the average withdrawal value is high; Italians visit ATMs infrequently but withdraw large sums of cash at a time. RBR also found that the average ATM in Sweden is used 11,300 times per month and that the average value of a cash withdrawal is highest in Switzerland, with EUR248. Retail Banking Research has published the annual “ATMs and Cash Dispensers Europe 2003” report since 1983.

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Banco General and First Data Jointly Launch a New Processing Company

Banco General and First Data have teamed to form a new firm to provide card processing services to financial institutions across Latin America and the Caribbean. Processing Center, S.A. or “PROCESA” will
initially process the portfolios of 15 institutions, with plans for a rapid expansion. The company will use First Data’s “VisionPLUS” transaction processing software to provide a wide range of card processing services, including credit, prepaid, gift and corporate cards. Founded in 1955 as Panama’s first private capital bank, Banco General acquired the locally held assets of Bank of America in 1985. In 1999, Banco General acquired and merged its operations with Banco Comercial de Panama. It is one of the few Latin American banks holding “Investment Grade Ratings” from two separate international rating agencies.

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SVS Launches Hannaford Supermarket Gift Card

Comdata’s Stored Value Systems subsidiary has launched an electronic gift card program for the 122-store Hannaford Supermarket chain, located primarily in the northeastern USA. Fully-customized for each retailer, SVS cash and gift card applications streamline back-office procedures by offering automated inventory control that replenishes cash card stocks at each store location. Gift cards can be purchased in any denomination in the store or via the company’s Web site, www.hannaford.com. Comdata Corporation(R) (www.comdata.com) is redefining the movement of money and information through technology for businesses, their customers and employees. Stored Value Systems is one of the world’s leading providers of electronic gift certificate and card-based transaction programs.

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Verus Makes its Fifth Acquisition

Nashville-based payment processor, Verus Financial Management, headed by Richardson Roberts, has made its fifth acquisition with the purchase of the assets of FL-based Global eTelecom. Verus now provides payment services to over 58,000 merchant locations in the United States and this is the fifth acquisition made by Verus since its inception in 2002. Global eTelecom is a national payment processor that provides a leading electronic check conversion engine to merchants, banks and independent sales organizations. By partnering with the payment processing industry’s leading Independent Sales Organizations, Global eTelecom provides a significant value added product for its partners and merchants. Verus Financial Management Inc. is a leading consolidator of successful payment processors into a “best practices” payment services company.

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LendingTree Expands GetSmart Platform

NC-based LendingTree has completed its acquisition of the “GetSmart” brand from Providian and will now offer the “GetSmart” platform to the more than 200 lenders who participate on the LendingTree exchange, as well as maintaining the relationships with 100 lenders who currently participate on the “GetSmart” network. The two brands will complement each other, as they offer distinct value propositions to both lenders and consumers who are interested in leveraging the Internet for online loan options and alternatives. The LendingTree Exchange is made up of more than 200 banks, lenders, and brokers (Lenders) and has facilitated nearly $68 billion in closed loans since inception. More than 10 million consumers have accessed the LendingTree Exchange through the Company’s site at http://www.lendingtree.com and through online and offline partners.

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Samsung Card Draws on Parent as LG Card Goes Up for Sale

The cash flow problems at Samsung Card may require a capital infusion of more than US$800 million, drawing in its parent company, Samsung Electronics, for the rescue. The news comes on the heels of the announcement this week that the country’s largest credit card issuer, LG Card, has decided to put itself up for sale. Korea Development Bank has indicated it may bid on LG Card by the December 30th deadline.

The Financial Supervisory Service reported last week that overall credit card delinquency increased during October to 11.74%, compared to 6.6% at the end of 2002. Woori Card reported the highest delinquency, at nearly 31%, and announced it will merge its banking business with its credit card subsidiary in March. The FSS says that Woori Card’s default rate jumped from 26.42% in September to 30.76% for October. LG Card had a 11.40% delinquency rate, Lotte Card had a 9.75% rate, and Hyundai reported 9.19% for October.

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