Online Bill Payments

Bank of America said this week it expects more than 1.8 million consumers to pay their bills online this month, compared to about 900,000 customers during January 2002. Last year, BofA customers paid about 5.6 million bills online. In January 2003, customers are expected to pay about 11 million bills online. In January 2002, the amount of the bills that customers paid totaled $1.7 billion. In January 2003, the amount is expected to be about $3 billion. BofA has more than 4.6 million active subscribers to its online banking services, the most in the industry.

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Music Players Card

NJ-based Shoppers Charge Accounts Co. has signed an agreement to develop and administer a private label credit card program for WI-based Cascio Interstate Music. The company acquires retailers’ receivables or will develop private label credit card programs for merchants who currently don’t offer a house charge. In both situations, SCA assumes responsibility for generating customers’ billing statements; managing credit, collection, and lockbox functions; and creating customized marketing programs.

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InstaPay Systems

San Diego-based Filmagic Entertainment Inc. has changed its name to InstaPay Systems Inc. to reflect the company’s new focus in the transaction processing market. InstaPay’s licensed technology provides a gateway service that enables and delivers certain transactions to allow the use of the consumer’s bank-issued ATM card over the Internet. This service is the first and so far only gateway service to enable Internet merchants to accept ATM Card transactions where the consumer uses their PIN number to verify their identity and complete their transaction.

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Diebold Opens a Sales and Service Operation in Lima

MasterCard Canada has inked a deal with Clear Channel Entertainment to
become the “Official Card of Clear Channel Entertainment Concerts Canada.”
In addition to on-site branding opportunities, the deal includes special
cardholder privileges for MasterCard users to purchase tickets to select
Canadian concerts in advance of the general public and receive other
special exclusive offers. MasterCard cardholders may also enjoy special,
“preceless” access to some live music concerts in Canada. Clear Channel
Entertainment Canada produces more than 250 music, comedy and special
events each year, reaching approximately one million Canadians. The firm
has produced events such as The Rolling Stones, U2, Paul McCartney and
Peter Gabriel.

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CMS & FTC Settle

The FTC announced a final settlement with TX-based Certified Merchant Services which requires the firm to stop their deceptive practices and provide consumer redress for defrauded merchants to whom CMS sold credit card processing services. The settlement requires the firm to sell its assets to provide money for consumer redress. The FTC complaint alleged that CMS violated the FTC Act by unfairly and deceptively: 1) modifying customer contracts; 2) debiting their accounts without authorization; 3) making misrepresentations regarding various goods or services offered; and 4) failing to disclose various charges or fees. The complaint alleged that in many instances, after merchants had signed applications (and without their knowledge), CMS altered contract terms, including fee and expense information. CMS allegedly then used these changes to justify debits made from the merchants’ deposit accounts without notification to the merchants. CMS then tried to disguise these debits, listing “H-Semi” and “H-Can,” instead of CMS, as the company that withdrew the fees. Finally, the complaint alleged that in many instances CMS deceptively failed to disclose, clearly and conspicuously, that they would charge merchants certain fees, including a minimum of $25 if the merchants did not achieve a certain level of card sales; a semi-annual fee of between $33 and $50; and a cancellation fee of between $300 and $400 for cancelling within three years of signing a service contract.

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Online Transactions

Trust levels among Internet users for online transactions have improved from a year ago (fourth quarter 2001). Now, more than 33% express trust that their online financial transactions are safe, up from 27.5% a year ago. According to the “The Consumer Internet Barometer”, produced jointly by NFO WorldGroup, Forrester Research and The Conference Board, overall Internet usage increased in the fourth quarter. Now, nearly 61% of consumers go online at least once a month. This is up from 58.7% a year ago. The “Consumer Internet Barometer” also finds the primary reason for using the Internet is personal communication (37.9%), followed by work-related activities (17.8%) and research (17.3%). Currently, 37.4% of users go online daily, up from 33.7% a year ago.

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GlobalPlatform Names Officers and Board

Monday, December 23 turned out to be the single busiest day for shopping
this year, according to the transaction data of Moneris Solutions. Moneris’
payment system handled 8.4 million transactions; a record
number for the organization and a 16% increase from 2001’s peak shopping
day. Last year, Friday, December 21 was the busiest day with Moneris
handling more than 7.2 million transactions. In 2000, Saturday, December 23
was the busiest day for Moneris with 6.7 million transactions moving
through the system.

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Concord Board

Concord EFS announced that Ronald Congemi, Concord SVP and president of Network Services, has resigned from the board and that Dr. Shirley Raines and Arthur Seessel have been elected to its Board of Directors. Raines is the 11th president of The University of Memphis and is the first woman to hold that office. Seessel began his consultancy in 1996. Previously, he was president and CEO of Seessel’s Supermarkets, a leading grocery chain in the Southeast and a retail icon in the Memphis area. Concord is a leading vertically integrated electronic transaction processor, providing transaction authorization, data capture, settlement and funds transfer services to financial institutions, supermarkets, petroleum retailers, convenience stores, restaurants, and other independent retailers.

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InterCept Payment Solutions

Atlanta-based InterCept announced yesterday its merchant transaction processing subsidiary, Electronic Payment Exchange, Inc. has changed its name to InterCept Payment Solutions, Inc. InterCept Payment Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of InterCept specializes in enabling businesses to accept credit card, debit card and electronic check payments. InterCept is a single-source provider of a broad range of technologies, products and services that work together to meet the technological and operating needs of financial institutions and merchants.

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Holiday Cards

Six out of ten Americans said they used their credit cards less this holiday season compared to last year, while 16% indicated they used credit cards more. The pull-back in holiday credit card use is reflected in the puny growth of retail sales, verifying the continued malaise of the U.S. economy. According to a CardWeb.com homepage poll of nearly 1,000 consumers, only 22% of consumers kept their credit card usage the same as last year. The one bright spot in this year’s holiday spending and credit card usage is online retail sales. Since November 1st, online shoppers have spent between $8 billion and $11 billion. According to com-Score Networks, online sales are up 19% this year. BizRate says online sales have climbed 40%. Meanwhile overall holiday sales are only expected to be 1% to 2% higher this year. Credit card volume has been growing between 13% and 14% this year, driven somewhat by strong balance transfer activity.

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JCB Payments

JCB has revised its credit card payment program to enable its cardholders to choose the amount of money to pay on their credit card each month. Under the new “Maximum Monthly Payment Option” the card balance may be cleared in one month, or if purchases and other amounts due exceed the maximum, the remainder is rolled into the card’s revolving balance. More importantly, with existing cards any unpaid amount is subject to finance charges from the closing date, but under the new option no charges apply until after the date of the first monthly payment. The maximum monthly payment amount may be set in increments of 5,000 yen (approximately USD40.00), which can be registered and changed via telephone or Internet as well. The Japanese banking settlement system is unique in that it relies on automatic transfers rather than personal checks for credit card payments,utilities, loans, and other payments.

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