Miami-based iDine Rewards Network this morning announced an agreement with America Online to jointly develop a new dining benefits program for AOL members. iDine offers its members a variety of dining savings and rewards programs at more than 7,500 restaurants throughout the USA via means of a registered credit card platform. The Company currently has 11 million registered credit cards through 8.4 million enrolled accounts. Under the AOL deal, members will earn credit toward AOL service for every $200 in dining spend at iDine’s network of restaurants nationwide. The new dining program is scheduled to launch in the spring of 2002.Details
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, after a small dip in February, surged in March. The Index climbed to 110.2 (1985=100), up from 95.0 in February. Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved significantly in March. Those rating business conditions as “good” increased from 17.6 to 20.7 percent. Consumers rating current business conditions as “bad” dropped from 22.8 percent 18.1 percent. Consumers reporting jobs were “plentiful” rose from 18.2 percent to 20.6 percent. Those claiming jobs were “hard to get” fell from 22.6 percent to 20.8 percent. The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.Details
EDS, and the Western Payments Alliance, one of the nation’s largest payments organizations, announced the launch of the country’s first digital image check truncation service as part of the financial services industry’s drive towards more secure, technology-based check processing.
The new service, designed and developed by Zions Bancorporation (Nasdaq: ZION) and licensed exclusively by EDS, moves digital images, rather than paper. The service allows financial institutions to save time, lower expenses, reduce fraud, and eliminate delays arising from any disruption to the nation’s transportation system. WesPay member institutions Union Bank of California (NYSE: UB), Zions Bank, First Hawaiian Bank, Nevada State Bank, California Bank & Trust, California Federal Bank, and WesCorp, the nation’s largest corporate credit union, are among the first to implement the new service.
“Financial institutions, businesses and consumers are all less vulnerable using digital image check technology,” said Gerard F. Milano, chief executive officer of the Western Payments Alliance. “It is a better way to handle checks, whether it’s in peacetime or during a period of duress. Digital image check truncation is the next critical step in transforming the nation’s check processing system, and it’s particularly important in the aftermath of September 11th.”
**Converting Paper Checks into Digital Images**
The new service helps financial institutions convert paper checks into digital images for processing by passing the digital image or a “substitute check” to the receiving financial institution. Today, financial institutions incur significant expense and time delays in the physical movement of checks by ground and air transportation. The drawbacks of conventional transportation came sharply into focus in the wake of the September 11th tragedy, when federal authorities shut down the nation’s air transportation system.
WesPay, one of the nation’s largest regional payments associations with more than 1,100 members in the western U.S. and Pacific region, handled 1.8 billion checks last year in the western states. It can take up to three days to collect and transport checks at institutions in outlying parts of WesPay’s large geographic service area. In the wake of September 11th, check collection and settlement for some WesPay members was delayed by up to a week. In the western U.S., digital image check truncation can lessen the effects of distances between financial centers.
WesPay has taken a lead role in accelerating the use of digital image check technology by introducing the new service among its member financial institutions in the western U.S. The roll out is designed to test the processing infrastructure of the service. The first phase of the rollout, which began in February, has functioned daily with images of actual returned checks. In the next stage, participating institutions will consider transit check collections.
“This system, designed and developed by Zions Bank and licensed exclusively to EDS, is an important breakthrough and innovative solution that is likely to become the national standard for the financial industry,” said James Pitts, director of EDS Payment Services. “Backed by the resources of EDS, we plan to aggressively roll out this system to other regional associations over the next 12 months.”
**Federal Legislation Key to Success**
To promote widespread adoption of digital image check truncation, the Federal Reserve has proposed legislation known as the Check Truncation Act to remove existing legal barriers to check truncation. The legislation would effectively allow the truncation of any check to a legal paper check by using digital imaging. Today, digital image check truncation can occur only when the owner of the check authorizes it. The Check Truncation Act would eliminate this authorization requirement and broaden the potential use of digital image checks in settlement processing. The anticipated passage of the legislation is likely to lead to rapid implementation of digital image check truncation technology.
“The Federal Reserve’s proposed legislation allowing electronic presentment of checks will be a watershed for the country’s financial system and should increase profitability for every financial institution,” Milano said. “With almost 50 billion checks written annually in the U.S., the savings and efficiencies from digital image check truncation will be truly extraordinary.”
The Western Payments Alliance is one of the nation’s largest regional payment associations, with more than 1,100 members in the western U.S. and Pacific region. The Western Payments Alliance serves as a cooperative, non- profit organization enabling member financial institutions to efficiently process paper-based and electronic financial transactions. Each day, WesPay collects and clears more than seven million checks totaling $7 billion in value. As a NACHA member, the Western Payments Alliance also acts as the rulemaking authority governing member transactions flowing through the Automated Clearing House (ACH). For more information, call 415-433-1230, or visit .
EDS, the leading global services company, provides strategy, implementation and hosting for clients managing the business and technology complexities of the digital economy. EDS brings together the world’s best technologies to address critical client business imperatives. It helps clients eliminate boundaries, collaborate in new ways, establish their customers’ trust and continuously seek improvement. EDS, with its management- consulting subsidiary, A.T. Kearney, serves the world’s leading companies and governments in 60 countries. EDS reported revenues of $21.5 billion in 2001. The company’s stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. Learn more at .Details
A three-year study on the change in consumer financial behavior after receiving credit counseling services, revealed that consumer credit usage and payment behavior were impacted in a positive way from such counseling. The analysis of 14,000 consumers examined ten different measures of borrower behavior subsequent to counseling and found that borrowers who received this form of budget/financial counseling reduced their debt and improved their credit profile over three subsequent years, compared to similar borrowers who did not receive counseling. The study was conducted by Georgetown University Credit Research Center and Lundquist Consulting under the blessing of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and its members. TransUnion provided the measure of credit performance over the three-year period, from June 1997 to June 2000. The clients studied were those counseled by NFCC agencies who received a comprehensive budget review and written action plan. The clients included in the study were not on “Debt Management Plans,” where agencies actively intervene with creditors to negotiate client payment plans that can include reduced minimum payments, reduced interest rates, and lower fees. While agencies and creditors closely track the progress of individuals on DMPs, no known information heretofore has existed on the impact of clients who receive budget/financial management counseling only. On average, one-third of NFCC agencies’ clients counseled are recommended for DMPs. The other two-thirds typically need a budget review and an understanding of options available, financial education, and possibly referral to other social service organizations to address other specific underlying problems affecting families’ financial well-being. NFCC’s 155 members are located in more than 1,300 communities nationwide and are mostly known as Consumer Credit Counseling Services, although some members are known by other names. In the year 2000, NFCC member agencies were contacted by more than 1.5 million American families under financial pressure.Details
The likelihood that Providian might go under are just about nil, according to a consensus of opinions among analysts. Providian’s stock took a nearly 16% leap Friday to close at more than $7 per share, after the company made another positive announcement. The Company indicated last week that it had reached a settlement in regard to a class-action shareholder lawsuit. Under terms of the proposed settlement, Providian will pay $38 million, the proceeds of which will come from insurance. The settlement was presented to a federal judge in Philadelphia on Friday. The original lawsuit was filed in 1999 by shareholder litigation specialist Wolf Popper. The complaint alleged that Providian improperly obtained revenues, and misrepresented the source of its revenues and income in public filings and press releases. The suit charged Providian with intentionally failing to post credit card payments on time in order to enable Providian to improperly record as revenues late fees and penalties, improperly enrolling new credit card customers without their permission, and improperly charging credit card customers for Providian’s fee-based products not requested. Last week’s settlement comes on the heels of other positive financial news for Providian. Earlier this month, Providian signed an agreement to sell its Argentine operations, including Providian Financial S.A. and Providian Bank S.A., to a local investor group in Buenos Aires. The Company expects to record a modest gain on the sale. In February, Barclays Bank signed an agreement to acquire the UK credit card operation of Providian Financial. The UK portfolio consisted of $565 million in receivables and about 500,000 cardholders. Also in February, banking regulators accepted Providian’s new Capital Plan and the company cut 11% of its workforce as it lowered overhead. For the fourth quarter Providian reported a net loss of $395 million from continuing operations, compared to an operating profit of $225 million for 4Q/00. Analysts have applauded Providian’s pace, led by new CEO Joseph Saunders, at cleaning up its business. Some analysts project Providian will climb to $14 per share over the next year and, barring any surprise developments, will trade well above its 52-week low of $2.00 per share. For complete details on Providian’s 4Q/01 performance visit CardData ([www.carddata.com]). (CF Library 6/8/99; 1/11/02; 1/18/02; 2/01/02; 2/8/02; 2/20/02; 3/8/02)
Tidel Technologies, Inc. announced that it has received approval from The Nasdaq Stock Market to transfer its listing from the National Market to the SmallCap Market effective at the opening of business today. The Company’s trading symbol will remain “ATMS.”
Mark K. Levenick, Interim CEO, stated, “The voluntary transfer, which should be transparent to our shareholders, will afford Tidel the longest grace period to regain compliance with Nasdaq’s minimum bid price requirement of $1.00 per share. Tidel will now have until August 13, 2002 to resume trading above $1.00 per share. If the Company does not meet the minimum share price requirement by the August deadline, then Nasdaq will grant the Company an additional 180-day grace period if the Company continues to meet the other SmallCap Market initial listing criteria.”
Tidel Technologies, Inc. is a manufacturer of automated teller machines and cash security equipment designed for specialty retail marketers. To date, Tidel has sold more than 30,000 retail ATMs and 115,000 retail cash controllers in the U.S. and 36 other countries. More information about the company and its products may be found on the Internet at .Details
While smart cards used in telecommunications have floundered over the past year, the use of smart cards in the financial markets grew by 21% last year, driven by the country-wide projects that are replacing existing magnetic stripe bank cards with smart cards, such as the UK’s conversion to smart cards in 2001. Furthermore, the long-term prospects for smart ID cards are immense, in response to the events of Sept 11th. According to an annual study by SchlumbergerSema, year-on-year growth rates for the entire smart card industry last year fell from typical +20% levels to a flat line at just +3%. The SIM (subscriber identity module) smart card market experienced an unanticipated drop in 2001. The main reasons were low levels of handset renewals due to the perceived failure of WAP, the non-arrival of 2.5G technologies, near saturation of handsets in some countries, and the fact that many operators had overstocked on SIMs to meet growth predictions that did not occur. In combination with the general lack of confidence following events on September 11, the result was a decrease of the market of around 10%. For the wireless smart card sector, the growth outlook is now a modest 12% for 2002, moving upward to 20% in 2003. The key factor driving this growth curve is the arrival of higher bandwidth mobile network infrastructure, which is expected to mature and result in volume handset orders during 2003. Although the government-driven card application sector involves large volumes, SchlumbergerSema says it is still in its formative years. This makes it extremely sensitive to individual projects, and near-term growth forecast partially relies on an extension of existing projects, such as the massive French health card project, which moved from its roll-out to maintenance phase. From 2004 onward, however, overall market prospects start to become immense. Several countries are currently planning for national ID cards, with some projects expected to reach their roll-out stage during the next two years. Numerous other countries are beginning to consider options in this area, partly as a result of heightened security concerns stemming from the events on September 11. SchlumbergerSema predicts that smart cards in the banking industry will grow 25% this year and 22% in 2003.Details
A U.S. District Court has held a magazine subscription telemarketing group in contempt of court and ordered it to pay $39 million in consumer redress for violating the terms of a 1996 Federal Trade Commission settlement. Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange wrote that despite the 1996 permanent injunction that barred various deceptive selling practices by the telemarketers, evidence presented by the FTC “â¦clearly and convincingly indicates that defendants’ acts and practices in connection with the sale of magazine subscriptions and magazine subscription packages violate the . . . Permanent Injunction.” The judge ordered H.G. Kuykendall, Jr., Diversified Marketing Service Corp., H.G. Kuykendall, Sr.; C.H. Kuykendall; National Marketing Service, Inc., NPC Corporation of the Midwest, Inc.; and Magazine Club Billing Service, Inc. to turn over the money to the FTC within 30 days of her order and ordered the FTC to submit a plan for the disbursement of this money to the court for review and approval. The Kuykendalls and their companies are based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In March 1996, the FTC filed suit charging the defendants with making misrepresentations in connection with the telemarketing of magazine subscription packages to consumers. Specifically, the agency charged that the defendants misrepresented the cost or duration of the subscriptions; misrepresented the reason they obtained consumers’ account information; charged consumers’ accounts without authorization; refused to cancel subscriptions; misrepresented consumers’ rights to cancel telemarketing contracts under state law; and threatened to harm consumers’ credit ratings.Details
Hypercom Corp., the leading global supplier of electronic payment solutions, Friday announced that it has sold 7.87 million shares of its common stock at a price of $5 per share to select institutional investors and high net worth individuals.
The proceeds will be substantially used to pay down high-cost mezzanine debt and to return the company to a more typical lending structure. The company expects that the transaction will be accretive to 2002 earnings as a result of reduced interest costs.
“This transaction is the last step in refinancing Hypercom and achieves the important strategic objective of further strengthening the company’s balance sheet,” said Christopher S. Alexander, president and chief executive officer.
“Our strong balance sheet, industry-leading products and execution of several strategic initiatives over the past 18 months clearly positions us to capitalize on the opportunities ahead and to create long-term value for our stockholders.”
The net proceeds of the private offering have been used to repay two term loans in the amount of $15 million and $5 million, respectively, under Hypercom’s credit facility, to repay $3.1 million in outstanding loans from a director and principal stockholder, and to reduce the outstanding borrowings under the company’s $25 million revolving credit facility. The remaining proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes.
Hypercom offered and sold the shares pursuant to an exemption from registration provided by Section 4(2) of the Securities Act of 1933. Hypercom anticipates that on or before April 18, 2002 it will file a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to register the shares for resale by purchasers in the private offering.
In the first quarter of 2002, the company will take an approximate $1.3 million charge, net of tax, as it expenses deferred loan costs associated with its retired term loans. It is expected that this charge will be completely offset through interest savings throughout the remainder of the year.
About Hypercom ([www.hypercom.com])
Hypercom Corp. is the leading global provider of electronic payment solutions that add value at the point-of-sale for consumers, merchants and acquirers, and yield increased profitability for its customers.
Hypercom’s products include secure Web-enabled transaction terminals that work seamlessly with its networking equipment and software applications for e-commerce, m-commerce, smart cards and traditional payment applications.
The company’s widely-accepted ePOS-infocommerce(TM) (epic) framework of consumer-activated, EMV-certified, touch-screen ICE (Interactive Consumer Environment) terminals enable acquirers and merchants to decrease costs, increase revenues and improve customer retention. Headquartered in Phoenix, Hypercom is independently acknowledged as the leading provider of point-of-sale card payment terminals worldwide. Demand for Hypercom’s terminals surpassed 1 million units last year alone. Hypercom today maintains an installed base of more than 5 million terminals in over 100 countries which conduct over 10 billion transactions annually.
Hypercom is a registered trademark of Hypercom Corp. ePOS-infocommerce and ICE are trademarks of Hypercom Corp. All other products or services mentioned in this document are trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks or registered service marks of their respective owners.
Americans believe the credit and debit card industry is doing a good job in making the Internet a safe place to conduct transactions. According to a recent homepage poll conducted by CardWeb.com, 63% of consumers say the industry is doing a good job, while 16% are not sure and 21% say “no.” Americans also find that entering passwords to secure transactions is not a hassle. However, consumers are not convinced that smart card readers connected to personal computers will make the Internet a more secure place to shop. More than 84% say password-enhanced card transactions, such as Verified by VISA, are not a hassle. Only 5% have ever taken advantage of a digital wallet. Slightly less than half of Americans believe a PC smart card reader will improve security. However, 25% are not sure, and 25% say the technology will not help security. Of those surveyed, 56% actively use credit and debit cards online (more than 10 times per month), while 31% used credit cards online between 5 and 10 times per month. Only 53% believe online merchants are doing a good job in protecting their personal information from hackers.Details
Schools across the country will receive a $13 million windfall this month from the Target Stores School Fundraising program. From classroom supplies to playgrounds, K-12 schools can use the School Fundraising money at their discretion. Since the program began in 1997, School Fundraising has contributed more than $55 million to our nation’s schools.
School Fundraising allows families, teachers and members of the community to designate their school of choice to receive an amount equal to one percent of their Target(R) Visa(R) and Target Guest Card(R) purchases* at Target Stores and on target.com. Target also donates 1/2 percent of all Target Visa purchases made everywhere else. Currently, more than eight million Target guests are enrolled in the program.
“The addition of the Target Visa card in November is one of the reasons this donation to schools is so significant,” said Ann Aronson, director of community relations for Target Corporation. “The new card allows Target guests to contribute to School Fundraising wherever they shop in addition to Target or target.com. The remarkable growth and continued success of the School Fundraising program shows the need to continue to support fundraising efforts for education in our communities.”
School Fundraising is one of several programs under the Take Charge of Education initiative, which also includes scholarship programs and grants. School Fundraising checks are distributed to schools twice a year, once in March and again in September. Currently, more than 114,000 schools are enrolled in the program.
Guest Cardholders and school representatives can visit target.com or call 1-800-316-6142 to enroll or check school payout totals.
About Target Stores
Minneapolis-based Target Stores serves guests at 1,081 stores in 47 states nationwide by delivering today’s best retail trends at affordable prices. Whether visiting a Target store or shopping online at target.com, guests enjoy a fun and convenient shopping experience with access to thousands of unique and highly differentiated items. The largest division of Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT), Target Stores gives back more than $2 million a week to its local communities through grants and special programs. Since opening its first store in 1962, Target has partnered with nonprofit organizations, guests and team members to help meet community needs.
*Target Visa(R) and Target Guest Card(R) are credit cards issued by Retailers National Bank, an affiliate of Target. Subject to credit approval. Subject to School Fundraising program rules.Details
Koala International Wireless, Inc., a leader in the development of web-based, wireless network applications, announced it has entered into a letter of intent to acquire 100% of the shares of Transcard Limited of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in exchange for common stock issued by Koala. The transaction is subject to a number of terms and conditions including the completion of mutual due diligence and approval by a majority of each company’s shareholders. Koala is building, through internal development and acquisition, a technology platform that incorporates state-of-the-art encryption and data compression techniques. The technology platform is integrated into a wireless communications device that allows access to a private cellular data network and/or the Internet. This capability enables Koala to exploit several existing complementary opportunities including Point of Sale (POS) and remittance applications that utilize credit and debit transaction processing for the restaurant, hospitality and entertainment industries.
In addition to POS applications, the Koala is in the final stage of developing the KIWI, a handheld wireless unit that is one of the most advanced personal telecommunications devices in the world. Basic services include instant messaging, Infrared Modem access, email, Internet browsing, office tools, business tools functionality, MP3 music player and others. The KIWI can be upgraded to a fully capable cellular phone that uses existing cellular networks. It can provide GPS functionality, extended telematics, screen signature capture, bar code recognition and other applications. The Company is currently evaluating a number of path-breaking compression technologies that are designed to enable wireless devices to deliver video teleconferencing and larger data packet transfer over GPRS or comparable cellular networks. By enabling the Koala Network central server platform to manage the bulk of the unit’s memory and processing capability, instead of locating them on the device, the KIWI can be produced and marketed at a price significantly lower than that of its competitors.
Transcard Canada Limited (www.transcardinter.com) is an International remittance and currency transfer company based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Transcard currently serves over 140,000 proprietary cardholders and offers its customers a variety of virtual account, currency conversion, and foreign exchange services. The company has deployed two finance cards, the TRAN$CARD International Finance Card and the TRAN$CARD Domestic Card. These cards offer stored-value electronic transfer debit cards permitting cross-border and global transfer of funds. Transcard’s cardholder can world-transfer funds electronically to a TRAN$CARD. The transferred funds can then be used wherever the TRAN$CARD brand is accepted to purchase goods and services or to withdraw money. Under an exclusive agreement, Transcard’s agent in the U.S. for collection is MoneyGram Payments Systems, Inc., of Lakewood, Colorado. MoneyGram is currently using Transcard’s proprietary stored-value card system to transfer funds to Cuba, under approval of the U.S. Government.
Stephen Dulong, CEO of Transcard, remarks: “The vision and technical capabilities of Koala and their expertise in secure, wireless banking services are extremely compatible with the growth plans of Transcard. Koala and Transcard, combined, represent an excellent opportunity to broaden and enhance Transcard’s functionality and offerings and further Transcard’s expansion into a number of additional international markets.”
Michael Johnston, President, CMO and co-founder of Koala, adds, “Koala’s technical and distribution infrastructure, coupled with Transcard’s proven formula for success in the international electronic collection and redemption business, will uniquely position Transcard to capture a large share of the international money transfer business.”Details