Internet Banking Services Vary Widely Among Top Banks

Consumers are unable to compare Internet banking services objectively, so says a new report released this week. Nearly 23 million Americans now use online banking, but many are not aware of the wide range of services offered by banks. The research by TowerGroup found that while most top banking sites offer the core features associated with online banking like account history and bill payment, there are significant variations in what these institutions offer to consumers in terms of actual functionality and usability. The top ten sites fell into three categories: leading providers that couple broader levels of features and functions with highly usable interfaces; mid-tier providers that offer capable online sites that lack the range of functionality of the leading sites; and bottom-tier sites that deliver the basics but discernibly lack comprehensive functionality and/or usability. The study looked at many online banking features including EBPP, historical account information, account aggregation, account alerts, document image archive, and customer self-service functionality.

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Charge-Offs and Delinquencies Plateau?

August’s credit card delinquency and charge-off rate, among card backed-securities, edged up ever so slightly, perhaps finally indicating a leveling-off. The charge-off rate for August increased to 6.88%, and the delinquency rate to 5.11%. The figures are based data gathered by Moody’s Investors Service. The charge-off rate increased one basis point while delinquency rose 2 basis points, between July and August.

MONTH CHARGE-OFFS DELINQUENCIES
Apr: 7.00% 5.25%
May: 7.05% 5.20%
Jun: 6.87% 5.12%
Jul: 6.87% 5.09%
Aug: 6.88% 5.11%
Source: Moody’s Investors Service

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Half of Web Users Access Account Information

Internet usage for financial transaction has surged during the past two years, with nearly half of Internet users now conducting financial transactions online. More than two-thirds of this group log on daily to conduct financial transactions, with credit card accounts leading the way. The findings come from the latest issue of “The Consumer Internet Barometer,” which also found that the proportion of consumers logging on primarily to conduct financial transactions has also grown from 3% to 5%. The report found that more than half of Internet users have made a purchase over the past three months, with 30% having spent more than $250. The percentage of consumers expressing satisfaction with their online experience has held steady at around 40% for the past two years, while their overall level of trust has hovered around 26%. “The Consumer Internet Barometer” is produced by NFO WorldGroup, Forrester Research and The Conference Board.

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HobbyTown USA Launches E-Cash Card

The world’s largest hobby franchise has partnered with three industry players to launch an electronic cash card program. NE-based HobbyTown USA has teamed with TN-based Comdata/Ceridian’s Stored Value Systems, Salt Lake City-based Gift Card Solutions, and the Chicago-based Discover/NOVUS Network. The card is available in multiple denominations via the Company’s Web site or at any store location. The card will be processed on the existing Discover/NOVUS Network. HobbyTown USA has 160 franchised locations.

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NCR Adds Ringler to the Board

OH-based NCR has elected Jim Ringler, vice chairman of Illinois Tool Works, to its board of directors. Prior to joining Illinois Tool Works, a $10 billion diversified manufacturer of highly engineered components and industrial systems, Ringler was chairman, president and chief executive officer of Premark International, Inc. Premark merged with Illinois Tool Works in November, 1999. NCR Corporation is a leading global technology company helping businesses build stronger relationships with their customers. NCR’s ATMs, retail systems, Teradata(R) data warehouses and IT services provide Relationship Technology(TM) solutions that maximize the value of customer interactions.

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NetBank Acquires FTI for $17 Million

Atlanta-based NetBank has signed a deal to acquire Financial Technologies for $16 million in cash and $1 million worth of restricted stock. Privately-held FTI has been profitable in each year of its seven-year operating history. It has deployed more than 4,300 off-premise ATMs across the country. On average, FTI machines process approximately 1.5 million or $60 million worth of transactions per month. Pending regulatory approval, FTI will operate as a subsidiary of NetBank. The deal is expected to close by year end.

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Tranax Launches New TDES ATM

Tranax Technologies has launched its “MBS5000″ series of ATMs. The weatherized and TDES compliant machine has an encrypting PIN Pad, UL291 Level One ATM certification, and approximate weight of 1,000 lbs. The 27″ body fits on a 36” island and retrofits into a “Slimline” kiosk with minimal modification. Connectivity is established through a modem or Ethernet card, and NDC+ as well as other emulation packages can be delivered via TCP/IP. The primary markets for this new series are community banks and credit unions operating ATMs that are not TDES compliant and need to be replaced.

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Surcharging Not Popular with Merchants

Since new credit card rules have gone into effect that permit merchants to surcharge customers for using credit cards, only one major corporation has begun surcharging. However, the Reserve Bank of Australia says a growing number of merchants are now surcharging, but the vast majority of Australian merchants do not. Qantas became the first major merchant to implement the surcharge. The airline began assessing a 1% surcharge for tickets booked with a VISA or MasterCard payment card, in July.

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AmEx Introduces Rewards Maximizer in Australia

American Express has launched a credit card in Australia offering a minimum of 1.5 “Membership Rewards” points for every dollar spent. AmEx’s new “Rewards Maximizer” has an interest rate of 16.99% and a monthly card membership fee of $12. There is no limit to the points a cardholder can earn and there is no expiration date on points. According to CardFlash International, the new card is presumably positioned to compete with the new ANZ-Diners Club alliance. Under the ANZ program customers are encouraged to use a Qantas ANZ VISA for small purchases and a Diners Club card for larger purchases. Diners Club offers double points on all purchases.

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Payment Data Systems and Network 1 Financial Partner

San Antonio-based Payment Data Systems has signed a multi-year agreement with Network 1 Financial to provide credit card authorization and settlement services and sponsorship into VISA’s “ISO” and MasterCard’s “MSP” programs. Payment Data Systems, Inc., is an Integrated Payments Solution Provider delivering comprehensive, cost-effective solutions to billers and retailers for the processing and management of electronic payments via the Internet, POS, or payments taken by Customer Service Representatives or an IVR. Verus Financial Management is a leading consolidator of successful payment processors into a “best practices” payment services company.

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Marks & Spencer Aims to Become Big U.K. Player

The largest credit card launch ever in Europe got underway today. Marks & Spencer Financial Services and MasterCard rolled-out the “&more MasterCard” which aims to become the 7th largest credit card issuer in the UK by year end. More than 2.6 million existing Marks & Spencer charge card users have been upgraded to the “&more” credit card, with new customers able to apply as of this morning. Alongside the credit card launch, Marks & Spencer Financial Services, the MasterCard member and issuer of the card, is being re-branded as ‘Marks & Spencer Money’. Prior to the national roll-out, Marks & Spencer completed a pilot phase in nine stores in South Wales with 40,000 charge card holders migrating to the new credit card. The new “&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. (CF Library 9/3/03)

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Intuit Closes on IMS Acquisition

Intuit has closed on the acquisition of Innovative Merchant Solutions, a provider of credit card and debit card processing services for small businesses. IMS enables Intuit to strengthen IMS offering for a critical ‘beyond-accounting’ service — merchant account services. Intuit Inc. is the leading provider of financial software and Web-based services for consumers, small businesses and accounting professionals. Intuit has annual revenue of more than $1.3 billion and reaches 25 million customers with nearly 6,000 employees in 13 states and four countries.

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