MBNA Earns Top Ranking as Card Servicer

Standard & Poor’s has assigned its highest servicer ranking of “Strong” and an outlook of “Stable” to the MBNA’s U.S. credit card operations. S&P’s cited MBNA’s “highly experienced management team,” “solid internal controls and risk management environment” and ability to execute strategic initiatives as a basis for the ranking. They also recognized MBNA for its “superior level of automation,” expertise in default management, and ongoing investments in technology aimed at improving the bank’s effectiveness and efficiency. The ranking makes MBNA America Bank one of the earliest recipients of this ranking among credit card lenders.

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Optimal Robotics Acquires RBA

Optimal Robotics has acquired Montreal-based RBA Inc., a provider of multi-vendor hardware maintenance outsourcing services. RBA is the largest independent Canadian provider of multi-vendor hardware maintenance outsourcing services, with over 350,000 sites being serviced and annual revenues of approximately Cdn.$41 million. The net cost of the RBA transaction is approximately Cdn.$10 million. Optimal has arranged for a credit facility with the Royal Bank of Canada to fund this acquisition. Optimal Robotics Corp. is a leading North American provider of self-checkout systems to retailers and field services to retail, financial services and other third-party accounts.

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Marshall on the American Standard Board

MasterCard’s Ruth Ann Marshall, president of MasterCard North America, has been elected to the American Standard Companies board. Marshall joined MasterCard International in 1999, and currently leads MasterCard’s largest region, which reported gross dollar volume — the amount of purchases and cash transactions on a card — of $602 billion in 2002. Before joining MasterCard, Marshall served as group executive president of two Electronic Payment Service companies, MAC Regional Network and Buypass Corporation, a leading third party processor. American Standard is a global manufacturer with market leading positions in three businesses.

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MSI and Global eTelecom Renew e-Check Deal

NJ-based Merchant Services, Inc. and FL-based Global eTelecom have renewed their partnership to facilitate electronic check conversion for merchants. These programs empower merchants to accept and process paper checks similar to a credit card transaction. Merchant Services, Inc is a premier credit and debit card processor serving merchants nationwide. MSI today enables over 25,000 businesses to accept credit cards. Global eTelecom provides it’s proprietary, fully customizable XML based electronic check processing services to a nationwide network of banks, independent sales agents and associations, credit card processors, insurance companies, and retail merchants, ranging in size from small “Mom &Pop” stores to national retail chains.

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Eracom and S2 Systems Integrate

Eracom Technologies is integrating its “ProtectHost White” host security module with S2 Systems’ “OpeN/2” payment processing application. ProtectHost White supports VISA, MasterCard, and American Express requirements such as card validation, PIN verification and cryptographic key management functions. S2 Systems, Inc. is a leading global provider of mission-critical enterprise payment and transaction management solutions for the banking, financial services, retail, telecommunications, utilities and travel & hospitality industries. Eracom Technologies is a leading developer and global supplier of cryptographic-based hardware and software products for uncompromising IT security applications.

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BankServ Among Top Fastest Growing Companies

San Francisco-based BankServ has ranked #63 nationally, and #1 in San Francisco, in this year’s Inc. Magazine’s “Inc. 500” ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the USA. Of the California companies listed by Inc. BankServ ranked first of six in San Francisco and eighth of 59 in the state. BankServ is a leading U.S. provider of Fed wire transfer and ACH payment solutions for banks, governments, higher education and businesses. The only business magazine dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of fast-growing private companies, delivers real solutions for today’s innovative company builders.

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InterCept Inks Comprehensive Agreement with GMAC Bank

Atlanta-based InterCept has signed a deal to provide GMAC Bank with client service for merchant accounts, customer service for customers of bill payment clients, chargeback management, ACH return processing, as well as risk and fraud monitoring and reporting, new merchant account set up, and underwriting services. InterCept Payment Solutions is a full-service billing provider, provides secure payment processing services that enable merchants and billers alike to accept and process multiple types of payments for goods and services. GMAC Bank is a federally chartered thrift offering remote consumer banking and FDIC-insured money market accounts, certificates of deposit and other products/services in person, via the phone, by mail and through the Internet at http://www.gmacbank.com

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ICICI Bank May Assume Market Leadership with a Co-Branding Push

ICICI Bank is pushing ahead of its competition, as the issuer adds 150,000 debit cards and 100,000 credit cards each month. ICICI has become the second largest issuer of credit cards in the country with 1.6 million. In the debit card market, ICICI has about 4.0 million cards.
Citibank remains the credit card leader in India with 1.8 million cards, but may be overtaken by ICICI within the next twelve months. The third and fourth largest credit card issuers are Standard Chartered Bank and SBI Cards, respectively. ICICI is reportedly focusing on co-branded cards to fuel its growth. The bank currently has co-branded deals with HPCL, BPL Mobile, and Trinetra.

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Excluding Sub-Prime, Portfolio Premiums Hold Steady

While sub-prime credit card portfolio premiums continue to decline to well below par value, premiums for prime and super-prime portfolios this year have been holding steady in the 17% to 19% range. Over the first three quarters of 2003, more than $39 billion of prime and super-prime outstandings have changed hands. According to data compiled by R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, 41 deals above $15 million have been struck this year as well as 39 sales of small credit union card portfolios. Over the first nine months of this year, prime premiums have ranged from 2.5% to 26.0%. During the third quarter the range was 2.5% to 24.5%, compared to a range of 5.0% to 26.0% for the second quarter, and 3.1% to 19.7% for the first quarter.

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UATP Offers VIP Airport Lounge Access at a Discount

Washington, DC-based Universal Air Travel Plan is now offering “Priority Pass” memberships at a discount, which provides access to 450 airport VIP lounges worldwide. Priority Pass delivers a flexible solution to business travelers who may fly a variety of airlines but need to maintain productivity during their airport lay-overs. With a Priority Pass membership, business travelers can choose from three different plans to satisfy their needs. UATP is the world’s first corporate charge product. UATP accounts are actively issued by 15 member airlines and accepted as a form of payment for corporate business travel by more than 200 airlines worldwide.

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VISA Beefs-Up Advertising as Honor All Cards Rule Ends

VISA USA announced this week it is beefing-up its marketing and advertising effort during the fourth quarter to drive up consumer usage. The increased effort comes just ahead of the January 1st termination of the “Honor All Cards” rule in the USA, whereby merchants can elect not to accept debit cards or credit cards. VISA says it launch three national usage promotions and at least seven new television commercials between now and January. VISA Q4 marketing activities will be supported by advertising, promotions, public relations and direct marketing efforts using their partnerships with the NFL, Disney and Broadway. VISA says it will launch two new NFL television commercials in conjunction with its NFL sponsorship. VISA is also launching its second Disney promotion this year during Q4. Furthermore, VISA will sponsor and be the only card accepted for the national tour of the hit Broadway show “Movin Out.”

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Personal Advantage Transmitter Card Launched

Direct Response Financial Services has launched its “Personal Advantage Transmitter Card.” The card provides ATM network access and, as an option, can provide access to the major credit card networks. Customers also have the ability to link two cards together and move monies between those linked cards. The card is geared toward young adults, credit-challenged adults and to large immigrant groups who regularly send monies to Central and South America. DRFL says it will initially focus on the Southern California marketplace and that customers will be entitled to full membership benefits, such as unlimited attorney time and accounting time on the telephone, so long as they meet a $10.00 monthly minimum fee.

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