EXTORTIONATE CARD RATES

Private label store card giant GE Consumer Finance, and other retail credit card issues in the UK, are coming under fire for continuing to charge interest rates as high as 32.5%, even though the Bank of England base rate has dropped to 3.5%. The Office of Fair Trading this week called the rates “extortionate” and has launched an informal inquiry into retail credit cards following complaints from Members of Parliament.

The OFT suggested that stiff fines could be imposed on the issuers. The OFT will grill bank industry leaders in a hearing next month. Several weeks ago, the Treasury Select Committee held a hearing over retail credit cards and accused the industry of “highway robbery” given that the Bank of England base rate has fallen from 7.0% in 1999 to 3.5% currently. 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.

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AsiaPay Launches a Secure Payment Gateway Solution

AsiaPay has launched “PayDollar PayGate,” a secure, payment gateway solution. This function-rich and user friendly electronic
payment-processing platform also provides readily multi-lingual capabilities support, multiple payment modes, with open and easy to deploy seamless interface integration with merchant sites of any industries. Furthermore, the platform also provides a variety of value-add features on payment risk control and support on latest security standards including VISA’s “Verified By VISA.” Currently, this payment-processing platform is serving over 400 merchants of Citibank and Wing Hang Bank.

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SureFire Commerce Named Canadian Technology Fast 50

SureFire Commerce has been named to Deloitte & Touche’s “Canadian Technology Fast 50” awards program. SureFire Commerce processes credit card, cheque and direct deposit payments for businesses around the world, via Internet, mail order-telephone order and point of sale transactions. Since its founding, the company has processed in excess of $3 billion in transaction value.

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AmEx Has Nearly 21.5 Million Reward Cards

American Express said this week that reward penetration across its U.S. consumer and small business cardsoinoforce base has increased from 31% in 1998 to 60% in 2003. The issuer said it intends to keep a strong focus on further leveraging this competitive advantage. The AmEx cash rebate products have been the most successful, while the new “Green” and “Gold” rewards programs have also experienced a strong response over the past year. AmEx also noted this week that despite the volume hits caused by the September 11th terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq and SARS, travel continues to deliver good profits. AmEx says its onoline capabilities, and its priceoforoservice approach, have produced a model that is more adaptable to the sales volatility realized over the last two years. In terms of volume growth, AmEx says it has performed better than the industry average, delivering higher growth than all but one competitor. Globally, AmEx now has proprietary card activities in 73 countries and 20 currencies, and network card relationships across 88 markets. At midoyear, American Express had 35.7 million total cardsoinoforce in the USA, according to CardData (www.carddata.com).

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9/11 Observance Declines on Second Anniversary

A national research study has found a striking decline in the number of people and employers expected to observe September 11 in a special way, compared to a 2002 study. In 2003, 19.2% said their employers had plans to observe the second anniversary, a drop from 39.3% in 2002. The survey was conducted for One Day’s Pay by Los Angeles-based Horizon Research. As in 2002, the research study found broad support for establishing September 11 as a voluntary day of service: 76.2% agreed that setting aside September 11 as a national day of voluntary or community service is “a good way” to observe the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

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Direct Card Services Enhances STV Card

Los Angeles-based Direct Card Services has launched two new direct marketing programs. The “Business Advantage Program” is a benefit to merchants offering free or discounted legal, accounting and other professional services. The “Personal Advantage Program” is offered to consumers who purchase the “Personal Advantage Stored Value Card” from DCS. Both programs offer unlimited telephone time with attorneys and accountants; discount health benefits; free consumer credit reports; and, flight and travel coupons. Both programs are also available separately for an initial activation payment and ongoing monthly charge. Direct Card Services is a subsidiary of Direct Response Financial Services and is an ISO/MSP of Chase Merchant Services.

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