South Korean Issuers Not Benefiting from Recovery

Liquidity problems among South Korea’s credit card issuers have not improved as the overall economy picks up. CardFlash International reported last week that LG Card is looking for $850 million by the first half of 2004. Woori Bank and Kookmin Bank agreed to pump $1.7 billion of fresh loans and roll over maturing debt into LG Card. LG Card posted $850 million in losses through the third quarter. Korea Exchange Bank says it is seeking to merge with KEB Credit Service to resolve liquidity problems with the credit card unit. KEB has lost $700 million so far this year. Other credit card issuers have posted significant losses as consumer credit defaults soar. Through the third quarter, Samsung Card has lost nearly $900 million; Woori Card $650 million; Hyundai $500 million, Shinhan $85 million; and Lotte cards $65 million. Fitch Ratings warned that the ailing credit card sector could damage the ratings of South Korean banks and corporations, even though 3.9 trillion won has been pumped into the credit card industry this year.

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KeyCorp Expands SFA ATMs in Colorado

Denver-based Native American Bank of Denver has joined Cleveland-based KeyCorp’s surcharge-free ATM network. The agreement provides Native American Bank customers with surcharge-free access to Key’s network of more than 1,347 automated teller machines in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, and Washington as well as 716 ATMs in ARCO am/pm retail locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Cleveland-based KeyCorp is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $84 billion. Key companies provide investment management, retail and commercial banking, consumer finance, and investment banking products and services to individuals and companies throughout the United States and, for certain businesses, internationally.

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Unilever Joins USTT to Expand eSuds to College Campuses

Unilever has inked a five year, multi-million dollar alliance with USA Technologies to expand online laundry payment, operating and service system for 600,000 laundry machines in colleges and universities, used by 7 million young consumers. This is the ideal system for college students, many of whom are new to the laundry process. From the laundry room, students activate the eSuds system at a control “hub” with the swipe of their student ID cards or keying in a unique pin number. The system automatically injects a pre-measured amount of ‘all’ laundry detergent and ‘all’ fabric softener into each load, at the right time. Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer products companies with annual sales of approximately $47 billion in 2002. USA Technologies is a leader in the networking of distributed assets, wireless non-cash and m-commerce transactions, associated financial/network services and interactive media technology and energy management.

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Young Females Actively Use the Internet to Compare Cards

A new study has shown that the majority of American females, between the age 18 and 29, using the Internet, have researched credit cards, banking, bill paying, and insurance products, online. The study also revealed that young adult men are more likely to say that online information changes their financial service brand opinions, but young adult women who are online are more likely to actually open new accounts. The “American Interactive Consumer Survey” conducted by Milwaukee-based The Dieringer Research Group found that 57% of all online women age 18-29 have researched financial service or insurance products online, compared to only 41% of young men. If the online women are 25 to 29 years old, nearly two-thirds have researched financial and insurance products online. In the peak activity segment of 25-29 year-olds, the survey found that 82% of all online women now bank online, and 49% report that they pay bills online. Bank accounts, bank savings products and credit cards are the top financial products researched online by women in the 18-29 age group. In each product category, women are more likely than comparably aged men to go online to seek product information.

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SBM Launches Top-Up Services at the ATM Using ACI’s BASE24 Software

The State Bank of Mauritius Limited has launched a top-up service at ATMs for mobile phone users using ACI’s “BASE24” software. BM currently uses “BASE24” to authorize, route and switch ATM and POS transactions. Using extensions to its existing “BASE24” software, SBM now provides top-up services at the ATM for subscribers to Emtel and Cellplus pre-paid mobile packages. The service allows top-up users to request a pay-as-you-go top-up from any SBM ATM. Customers of other banks will also be able to access this service at SBM ATMs. ACI software will validate that the account holder has sufficient funds and authorize the transaction. ACI will team with sister company Insession Technologies, as “BASE24” will communicate with the telecoms operator via Insession’s “WebGate” solution. “WebGate” provides the interface between both parties using HTTP and XML to facilitate requests and transfer information.

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CheckFree 4.0 is More Consumer-Friendly

CheckFree announced at the “BAI Retail Delivery Conference” it has added a more consumer-friendly user interface to its electronic billing and payment technology platform and service. The new “CheckFree Web 4.0” consolidates access to the most frequently used features, such as making payments, setting up and managing e-Bills, and viewing payment history. The new “Single-Point Bill Management” center improves site navigation and guides customers through all bill viewing, payment and status monitoring activities. “CheckFree Web 4.0” enables consumers to use a dynamic calendar to view and choose earliest available payment dates, which may be the same day or next day, to schedule payments. The status of each payment is updated when the remittance information is sent, and again when the merchant reports that the payment has been processed and posted. Other payment processing enhancements include advanced account transfer capabilities that enable consumers to schedule funds transfers from one account to another, either within the same financial institution or from one institution to another. Consumers can now also use the application to send reminders to themselves about when bills are due.

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HYPERCOM OPTIMUM

Hypercom has launched the next generation of 32-bit, multi-application POS card payment terminals for initial release in the Europe, Middle East and African region. The new line of “Optimum”
products, announced at this week’s “Cartes 2003” conference, includes the “Optimum T2100” hand-over merchant counter-top card payment terminal and the “Optimum M2100” wireless portable that supports Bluetooth, GPRS & GSM. The new terminals feature “EMV 4.0” certification, “TDES,” PIN security and over 12MB of memory to securely support an array of multi-applications including on-screen advertising, interactive electronic coupons, value-added applications, as well as secure credit, debit and EMV smart card functions. Both the wireless and countertop “Optimum” solution feature integrated EMV smart card reader, printer and internal PIN Pad and support high contrast LED backlit display, large elastromeric keypad with tactile key indicators for fast data entry/key strokes, and a host of other sensible features that meet with British DDA requirements. The new solutions will be available for volume shipments in January.

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Internet Banking Spreads Slowly Globally

A research report released this week at the “BAI Retail Delivery Conference” shows that Internet banking increased 19% worldwide this year, with 80% of North American banks offering this service, compared to 47% of top banks in Europe and 66% of top banks in Asia. The study by Unisys and the Global Future Forum, also found that of the top 400 banks surveyed globally, 64% now offer online banking, including the ability to open an account online. While online billing is still in its infancy, with only 32% of banks globally promoting the service actively, 77% of banks in North America make this available. The study says that most financial institutions see that they need real-time access to integrated information across channels to improve customer service. When ranking the importance of speed of information flow, respondents state that the top needs for real-time updates were billing and transaction information (40%), fraud prevention (32%), product quotes (30%) and customer profile and account information (30%).

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Online Holiday Spending Could Top GBP 3.3 Billion Based on Current Trends

Online spending could top GBP 3.3 billion during the Christmas season this year, twice last year’s level. The Interactive Media in Retail Group says the figures are based on the strong online activity of October. October’s online sales were exactly 50% ahead of the same month last year at GBP 1.1 billion, and a 36% increase on the September level. The “IMRG e-Retail Sales Index” now stands at 1357 – compared to its base level of 100 when the index was first compiled in April 2000. Significantly, the market share of visits to shopping Web sites has increased by 48% since last December with over half (57%) the visitors being men.

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UATP Beefs-Up Card Transaction Processing System

Washington, DC-based UATP has signed a seven-year extension to its contract with ARINC Incorporated, under which ARINC will deploy enhancements to UATP’s credit card transaction processing system to enable airline, rail and travel agencies to submit transactions and perform database queries using a variety of access methods. UATP is the world’s first corporate charge product. UATP accounts are actively issued by 14 member airlines and accepted as a form of payment for corporate business travel by more than 200 airlines worldwide. ARINC Incorporated is the world leader in transportation communications and systems engineering.

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National City Lands Co-Branded Golf Rewards VISA

The nation’s fastest-growing golf instruction and equipment company has teamed up with Ohio-based National City Bank to launch a rewards credit card. The new “Natural Golf VISA Platinum” offers cardholders 2% back on all purchases using the card, which then can be redeemed for Natural Golf products. Cardholders also receive a $50-value application gift. Under the program, cardholders earn a $25 Natural Golf certificate, which is included with their monthly VISA statement, for every $1,250 in VISA purchases. Natural Golf Corporation has more than 125 Certified Instructors teaching the Natural Golf System at schools that vary from half-day in length to four days at nearly 200 locations worldwide.

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