MyPoints for Staples VISA announced Tuesday that its card services arm, Alliance Development Group, has been chosen by U.S. Bancorp to manage the rewards program for the new Staples Visa Business Card.

Yesterday’s announcement brings the number of credit card rewards programs operated by on behalf of U.S. Bancorp to three, including programs for the nation’s leading supermarket retailers, Albertsons and the Kroger Co.

“U.S. Bank works with leaders in all areas to provide its clients with the very highest level of service,” said Daniel Frate, president of Payment Systems for U.S. Bancorp. “’s card services group has the experience we can rely on to operate complex rewards programs for demanding partners, and it continues to be our program manager of choice for high-profile rewards programs such as this.”

“ continues to strengthen its leading position in the substantial market for credit card services both online and offline,” said Frank Pirri, Senior Vice President of Offline Commerce for “By working closely with leading partners such as U.S. Bank, believes the company is well positioned to take advantage of the inevitable integration of commerce, credit cards, loyalty programs and the Internet.

The new Staples Visa Business Card, designed to provide small businesses with the credit they need, is the first such business credit card offered by an office supplies retailer and one of the only business cards to offer rewards with no annual fee. With every dollar charged on the Staples Visa Business Card — at Staples or anywhere else Visa is accepted — cardholders will earn points redeemable for free Staples products and services, free airline tickets, restaurant and movie certificates, hotel accommodations and rental car services. The points are accrued at the company level and can be used by the business or gifted to employees or customers.

About Staples, Inc.

Staples (NYSE: SPLS) is a $7 billion retailer of office supplies, furniture and technology to consumers and businesses from home-based businesses to Fortune 500 companies in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal. Headquartered outside Boston, Staples invented the office superstore concept and today is the largest operator of office superstores in the world. The company has over 46,000 employees serving customers through more than 1,100 office superstores, mail order catalogs, e-commerce and a contract business.

About U.S. Bancorp

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, with $82 billion in assets, is the 12th largest bank holding company in the nation and operates approximately 1,000 banking offices in the Midwest and West. The company provides comprehensive banking, trust, investment and payment systems products and services to consumers, businesses and institutions. It operates a network of 5,300 ATMs and provides 24-hour, seven-days-a-week telephone customer service. The company offers full-service brokerage services at approximately 100 offices through U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. The company is the largest provider of Visa corporate and purchasing cards in the world, and is one of the largest providers of corporate trust services in the nation. For further information, please see the U.S. Bancorp web site at [][1].

About is a leading developer of Internet direct marketing services and loyalty infrastructure. The Company’s database-driven direct marketing service, MyPoints(R), enables businesses to identify, acquire and retain customers through a unique program that integrates highly targeted email and Web-based offers with incentive points to respond to those offers both online and offline. is also a leading developer of Internet loyalty infrastructure, including MyPoints(R) Network and custom-branded rewards programs based on the Company’s proprietary technology platform — the Digital Loyalty Engine(TM). has sales offices in cities nationwide. For direct marketing and loyalty product information please call toll-free 800-890-9351, 212-699-8050, ext. 7702 from outside North America, or visit them online at .



CyberCash Record Volume

CyberCash, Inc., the world’s leading provider of electronic payment technologies and services, announced Tuesday that the company’s Internet payment processing volumes surpassed eight million transactions in February, tripling the number from the same month last year.

CyberCash also said that, the popular Web site of tax giant H&R Block, led the way among CyberCash’s 20,000 Internet merchants with more than one million transactions processed in February.

“This tripling of transactions in a month that is usually slower than others demonstrates both the success of CyberCash and the phenomenal growth of Internet payment processing,” said Chuck Riegel, executive vice president of worldwide marketing.

“Internet payment volumes are exploding and CyberCash is uniquely positioned to capture this business,” he said. “Internet payment processing is required by all sorts of new businesses, from filing taxes to political contributions to our bread-and-butter business of e-commerce.”

H&R Block is a diversified company with subsidiaries providing a wide range of financial products and services. H&R Block Tax Services Inc. served 18.9 million taxpayers in more than 10,000 offices worldwide in 1999. This year, H&R Block began offering free electronic filing in the majority of its U.S. offices. Block’s Web site,, offers online tax preparation, tax advice, brokerage services, mortgages, insurance and other financial services. Block also publishes the award-winning TaxCut software program.

“We’re pleased with the growth of online tax preparation and sales of our tax software on the Internet,” said Gene Goldenberg, senior vice president for software and e-commerce at H&R Block. “We chose CyberCash to help us handle this business because they offer the speed, reliability and security which are necessary to be competitive on the Web.”

CyberCash has experienced enormous growth as the leading provider of payment processing services to the burgeoning Internet economy. CyberCash doubled its merchant base in less than a year to the current 20,000 that includes, and The company experienced a 110 percent increase in Internet revenues between 1998 and the end of 1999. In February of last year, CyberCash processed 2.6 million transactions.

About CyberCash

CyberCash, Inc., the world’s leading provider of Internet payment services and electronic payment technologies, is a pioneer in payment software and solutions spanning both the e-commerce and physical world markets. CyberCash today has more than 20,000 Internet merchant customers, more than 130,000 physical world software products shipped and solutions that are delivered as either software or services. CyberCash offers the broadest reach in the payment industry with a comprehensive distribution network that includes direct and indirect sales as well as marketing partnerships with financial institutions, Internet service providers, application service providers, storefront solution providers and leading independent software vendors.


AmEx Invests in

American Express announced Tuesday that it has made a minority investment in, a leading “shop by request” online service that connects buyers with sellers. The two companies also signed a joint marketing agreement in which American Express will promote the services on its merchant Web site ([ rchant][1]), and will promote American Express services on its Web site. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are delighted to make an investment in,” said Pierric Beckert, Senior Vice President of Interactive Investments at American Express. “Consumers and businesses can save time and money with’s easy-to- use online shopping service and benefit from the company’s excellent customer service. In addition, merchants of all sizes have a great way to gain new customers at a low monthly fee. We look forward to working with to deliver these benefits to our customers.”

Buyers using’s free “shop by request” service simply type in a description of the item they want to purchase at [][2]. A buyer’s request is forwarded to the sellers who have registered for requests in given categories. Sellers respond via email to the buyer, who then chooses which seller to contact directly to negotiate the purchase. Buyers remain anonymous to the sellers throughout the process, only revealing themselves when they are ready to make a purchase.

Buyers can browse through more than 3,000 product and service categories, such as travel, consumer electronics, antiques and office supplies, and use’s search feature to find exactly what they’re looking for.

“We are pleased to be aligned with a company like American Express that understands the importance of the buyer-merchant dynamic. This investment and our work with American Express are instrumental to our growth in 2000,” said Will Clemens, CEO of “We are pleased that they share our enthusiasm of providing buyers with a way to ‘shop by request’ online and receive exactly what they are looking for.”

American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel, financial and network services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking. At [][3], consumers, small businesses and corporations can choose from a wide range of Internet products and services. American Express is making minority equity investments in emerging Internet companies, as well as building strategic alliances with these organizations by signing marketing and supplier agreements, obtaining exclusive offers for customers, or targeting investment dollars for marketing purposes. ([][4]) is the leading online shopping service that allows buyers to “shop by request” using their own words to request a wide range of products and services. Unlike online auction sites or shopping search engines, takes the work out of shopping, saving buyers effort and time. Sellers with benefit by receiving highly targeted leads from customers who are ready to buy. has partnered with American Express, America Online, Excite@Home and additional online businesses to provide their members access to’s community of buyers and sellers. Based in Redwood City, California, the company is funded by The Barksdale Group, Benchmark Capital, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Private Equity along with Access Technology Partners, Amerindo Capital Management, Attractor Investments and Index Ventures. was founded in 1998.



OPC IRS Contract

Official Payments Corp. announced Monday it has been awarded a new and expanded contract with the Internal Revenue Service. The new award authorizes OPC to accept federal tax payments for tax year 2000 balance-due and extension tax payments, as well as 2001 estimated payments, by credit card over the telephone and Internet. The contract is for one year with an option for a one-year extension. The award of the Internet-based credit card tax payment system is incremental to OPC’s existing IRS contracts which enable taxpayers to pay their 1999 balance due payments, 1999 tax year extension and 2000 estimated tax payments via telephone. OPC also reported yesterday that for the period of January 14 to February 29, year-to-date balance-due tax payment transactions by credit card have increased 336%, while dollar volume has increased by 330% for the same period.


Membership Rewards

American Express announced its ‘Membership Rewards’ partner line for 2000 yesterday. New retail partners include: Bergdorf Goodman, Brooks Brothers, Callaway Golf, Country Road, Oreck, Richard Petty Driving Experience, THE RIGHT START and Swiss Army Brands. The new ‘Membership Rewards’ travel partners include: Alitalia Airlines, Air Aruba, Disney Cruise Line, Frontier Airlines, Midway Airlines, Omni Hotels, Pro Air, Qantas, South African Airways and Sun Country Airlines. The ‘Membership Rewards Program from American Express’ was first launched in June 1991 under the name ‘Membership Miles’. In 1995, retail and other non-travel rewards were added to the program, and it was re-named the ‘Membership Rewards Program’. In October, 1999, American Express expanded the program by offering two new program levels, ‘Membership Rewards Plus’ designed for frequent travelers and cardholders who accumulate a large number of points and want more rewards flexibility and choice and ‘Membership Rewards Options’ for cardholders who prefer easy to attain awards. ‘Membership Rewards Options’ has a separate list or partners.


No-Surcharge Link Network

The Co-operative Bank last week told Stephen Byers MP, the Secretary of State for Department of Trade and Industry, in a one-to-one meeting that it will continue to provide free cash machine withdrawals despite moves by other banks to surcharge.

At a breakfast meeting at Lancashire County Cricket Club, in Manchester, the Chief Executive of The Co-operative Bank, Mervyn Pedelty, also confirmed to the Minister that:

·As a founder member of the Link cash machine network, it is fully committed to the idea of one national shared network of cash machines freeto customers.

·It believes the existing interchange fee between banks covers the costs of an ATM transaction and that it is not necessary to levy any additional charges on customers.

·It is installing 350 cash machines in co-op retail stores. This investment is being funded by interchange fees, not charges. Mr Pedelty, also praised the DTI for insisting that banks charging for cash machine withdrawals must warn people at the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) before they make the transaction.

He said: “Undoubtedly the Department of Trade and Industry’s intervention has ensured that charges for cash will now be more transparent to customers of banks. There is real confusion amongst the public as to when they are going to be charged.”

The Co-operative Bank also urged the Government to keep a close eye on the charges levied to ensure that they reflect costs. He added: “In a free market, banks have a right to set their own prices for products and services. However, there is a real danger if these prices are simply divorced from the actual cost of delivering the product or service. If banks were to abuse their position, for example, in the way they charge customers for cash machine withdrawals, there would be a legitimate case for Government intervention.”


First American Tops $575 Million

First American Payment Systems, Inc., one of the fastest growing non-bank merchant credit card processing acquirers, Monday announced that the total number of transactions processed increased 53% to 8.1 million in 1999 from 5.3 million in 1998.

The sum of the transactions processed in 1999 equaled $575.8 million, an increase of 33% over the 1998 volume of $433 million.

“First American’s record 1999 performance is attributable to the continued concentrated focus of all our associates on delivering dependable, predictable transaction processing services to small- and medium-sized merchants,” said Neil L. Randel, president and chief executive officer. “First American Payment Systems is uniquely poised within the industry to continue to experience unprecedented growth.”

About First American

First American Payment Systems, Inc., a privately owned corporation founded in 1990, provides full-service electronic credit card authorization and payment systems to retail, mail order, telephone order, Internet and home-based merchants throughout the United States. First American’s other divisions include national ATM deployment, Secur-Chex(TM) check guarantee, FirstPay.Net e-commerce payment gateway and Merimac Capital point of sale equipment and ATM leasing. For more information on First American Payment Systems, visit the company’s Web site at [][1].



plaNet Signs Three Contracts

First of Omaha Merchant Processing and plaNet Consulting, Inc. Announce Strategic Partnership

plaNet Consulting, a leading provider of e-business solutions, and First of Omaha Merchant Processing a premier processor in the direct marketing industry, announced an agreement to provide integrated e-business solutions. This strategic parnership will allow First of Omaha to leverage its existing infrastructure in delivering settlement data and monthly statement data to its agent banks and merchants via the Internet.

“plaNet Consulting products provide us with the level of security needed for the latest card processing technologies in Internet commerce solutions,” explained Nick Baxter, president of First of Omaha. “The management team and product architects from plaNet Consulting deliver the expertise for us to continue our customer service in a diversified product line.”

“The e-business market is rapidly changing, especially as it relates to the Internet,” said Alan Michels, plaNet Consulting CEO. “Our partnership with First of Omaha extends the quality of service its clients expect for processing in the direct marketing and bankcard industries” plaNet Consulting’s products allow direct access to transaction information from anywhere in the world at any time of day in a secure web-based environment.

About First of Omaha Merchant Processing

First of Omaha Merchant Processing is a wholly owned subsidiary of First National Bank of Omaha. Founded in 1863, First National Bank of Omaha is the 32nd oldest nationally chartered bank in existence. First of Omaha is a premier processor in the direct marketing industry and processes bankcard transactions for large and small retailers, restaurants, lodging merchants, petroleum marketers, associations/franchise groups, and banks as well.

Cardservice International Parners with plaNet Consulting To Provide Merchants with Easy-to-Use E-Commerce Software

Electronic commerce solutions provider plaNet Consulting, Inc. announced today that it is partnering with CardService International, Inc., a premier provider of secured payment processing on the Internet, to provide merchants with a means of accessing information about their accounts at any time and from any place.

Cardservice International is licensing plaNet Consulting’s icFoundation and icAcquirer software products. The two applications are part of plaNet Consulting’s Intelligent Commerce suite of Web-based products. icFoundation is an easily customized application to provide rapid deployment of e-commerce, including intranet, extranet and Internet applications. icAcquirer is geared to the merchant acquiring industry and provides users with a comprehensive view of the transactions, chargebacks, retrievals, batch totals and preformatted statements. Additionally, this information can be accessed from anywhere and any time.

“Providing our customers a self-service channel to obtain the information they need to manage their business was very important to us,” said Timothy Miller, Cardservice International’s senior vice president of operations. “We chose plaNet Consulting because of its knowledge of the industry and because the Intelligent Commerce products are built on a strong architecture that we can further leverage for other business applications.”

“Cardservice International is viewed as a technology leader in the payment industry and we are excited that it has chosen to partner with plaNet Consulting and purchase our icAcquirer and icFoundation products,” commented Alan Michels, plaNet Consulting’s president and chief executive officer. “We look forward to working with this industry leader to better serve its customers and further enable its growth.”

About Cardservice International, Inc.

Cardservice International, Inc., is a global leader in providing real-time secure credit card transactions to merchants. Cardservice offers merchants a cost-effective service tailored to their businesses, enabling them to provide credit card processing over the Internet as well as to the traditional marketplace. The company’s LinkPoint Secure Payment Gateway utilizes state-of-the-art Secure Sockets Layer technology and is easily scalable to any size business. The gateway is designed to communicate in real time with a business core data-processing system to allow online transactions to be posted immediately. The gateway also delivers a full range of capabilities, including sales, returns, authorizations, online check processing and comprehensive real-time reports for easy Web management.

First National Bank of Omaha and plaNet Consulting, Inc. Announce Strategic Partnership

plaNet Consulting, a leading supplier of enterprise e-business solutions, and First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO) announced today an agreement to provide integrated e-business solutions. This strategic partnership will allow FNBO to fully integrate plaNet Consulting’s icFountation web infrastructure product along with its icAcquirer merchant acquiring application for instantaneous access to financial transactions from anywhere in the world plaNet Consulting will utilize FNBO’s new Technology Center in Omaha, Neb. to deliver Total Solution Provider (TSP) solutions to its customer base.

“plaNet Consulting solutions provide the framework and architecture for processing the immense volumes of complex interactions that financial e-commerce applications must routinely handle,” explained Russ Oatman, FNBO’s senior vice president. “The experience and philosophy of plaNet Consulting’s management align with FNBO’s focus on high-volume, mission-critical data systems, and we’re impressed with its list of satisfied clients.”

“The continued rapid growth of the ASP and TSP markets demonstrates that this industry is one of the hottest in the technology sector,” said Alan Michels plaNet Consulting CEO. “The industry has come to expect innovative financial services solutions from plaNet Consulting. Our parnership with FNBO provides an operational capability in item processing that is exceptional in the industry and very strategic in our vision of the marketplace.” ASPs combine traditional outsourcing principles with the Internet to offer a compelling alternative to buying shring-wrapped software and implementing it in-house.


Low Rate Competition

While some major card issuers continue to push 0% intro rates and 9.9% go-to rates, Providian has ratcheted rates down to a new low. In pre-approved solicitations hitting mailboxes this month, Providian is offering a no-annual-fee, 5.99% fixed APR ‘VISA Platinum’. According to CardWatch ([][1]), Providian also offers a fixed 7.99%, no-annual-fee ‘VISA Platinum’ through its Aria Web site. The new 5.99% APR rate only applies to new purchases. Interest rates for balance transfers range from a variable 12.99% to 21.99% depending on credit worthiness. The cash advance APR is 21.99%. CardTrak ([][2]) says the 5.99% Providian card has two caveats for consumers. There is a 3% fee if a balance transferred to the card is subsequently transferred to another lender within the first twelve months. Providian also discloses it may raise the card’s APR to 23.3%, “if a cardholder increases total unsecured debt by more than $5,000 without sufficient income”. Cardholders who make one late payment in the first six months will have their APR raised to 12.99%. Cardholders who make two late payments over a 12-month period are also subject to the 23.3% punitive APR. Providian offers a maximum $50,000 credit limit on the ‘VISA Platinum’.



Home Print Movie Tix

AOL Moviefone Inc., the nation’s largest movie listing guide and ticketing service, Monday announced plans to launch a new program that enables consumers who purchase tickets over to print their own bar-coded movie tickets at home and avoid lines at the theater. A prototype of the new service is on display this week at AOL Moviefone’s booth at the annual ShoWest movie industry convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. The program is set to launch early this summer in partnership with United Artists Theatres and will roll out to other AOL Moviefone theater-chain partners over the course of the year.

Under this new program, moviegoers who purchase their tickets on will have the option of printing out a bar-coded ticket on their home computer printer. These electronic tickets will eliminate the need for moviegoers to bring a credit card to the theater to retrieve their tickets from automated ticket machines in the theater lobby. Now, they can simply present their home-printed ticket, which will be scanned by theater personnel for quick admission. Consumers who do not have printers or prefer the former method will still be able to pick up tickets at automated machines in theater lobbies, just as in the past. The new home-printing option will also be made available to users of Moviefone’s popular 777-FILM telephone service simultaneously.

“We are committed to making moviegoing more convenient and fun for the millions of moviegoers who use our services online, on the phone, or through any of the new devices on which Moviefone is available.” said Andrew Jarecki, Chief Executive Officer of AOL Moviefone. “Letting moviegoers print tickets at home saves them time and gives them the confidence of arriving at the theater with tickets in hand.”

“This initiative is another example of how our partnership with AOL and Moviefone is helping United Artists to provide the best, most innovative services to moviegoers,” said Kurt Hall, CEO of United Artists Theatre Company. “We look forward to offering our patrons the convenience of being able to print United Artists movie tickets at home.”

In order to create and fulfill these bar-coded electronic tickets, AOL Moviefone will use its existing ticketing interface with the theaters to create seamless, real-time access to the theater’s ticket inventory and to communicate the consumer’s purchase back to the theater’s box office. AOL Moviefone will also be working with preferred partner Radiant Systems to create additional back-end technology that will be distributed to participating circuits.

About AOL Moviefone

AOL Moviefone, a wholly owned subsidiary of America Online, Inc. (NYSE: AOL), is the leading offline and online movie listing, information, and ticketing service. Through its AOL Moviefone telephone service (e.g. 777-FILM) and its online service, the company provides millions of moviegoers each week with a complete, free directory of movies, showtimes, theater locations, the ability to purchase tickets, and other content of interest to moviegoers. AOL Moviefone is a part of the AOL Interactive Properties Group.


Rapid Link Cited

Rapid Link Communications, a worldwide leading provider of international Internet-based communications services, recently was named as one of the “Top 25” in Georgia for 1999 venture capital-backed deals by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Rapid Link tied for 19th place due to their last round of fund raising efforts in which they secured a $10 million equity investment from Vaxa Capital Partners, LP in the fourth quarter of 1999. The listing compiled by PriceWaterhouseCoopers will be featured in special section in the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Other companies tying with Rapid Link in terms of venture capital raised were e-Solutions Software, eTour Inc., Magnet Communications and Viewlocity Inc.

Rapid Link plans to use the equity investment from Vaxa to implement their year 2000 goals by expanding their global IP-based network, greatly increasing the growth of the retail customer base and revenue and attracting more strategic IP alliances with major telecommunications carriers and Internet telephony service providers (ITSPs) worldwide.

“We are grateful to be acknowledged as one of the “Top 25″ in Georgia for venture capital raised for 1999. The investment from Vaxa Capital Partners will help build upon Rapid Link’s current position as an industry leader in IP telephony as we further expand our network and services,” states T. Dewey Wise, chief executive officer of Rapid Link.

PricewaterhouseCoopers tracks data regarding equity investment deals on a quarterly basis in the MoneyTree survey and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, publisher of the “Top 25” Book of Lists.

About Rapid Link

Founded in 1993, Rapid Link( Communications provides affordable, high-quality Internet-based communications services and excellent, around-the-clock customer service to individuals and small businesses in the United States, Asia and Europe. Rapid Link offers international direct dial services, pre- and post-paid calling cards, toll-free, Internet access and carrier services to more than 65,000 customers and 500,000 prepaid card end users worldwide. As an Internet telephony service provider, Rapid Link routes voice, data and fax traffic over switched and IP networks, offers an Internet telephony exchange carrier program and serves as an official VoIP carrier for Korea Telecom, Telekom Malaysia and Capcom International. In 1999, Rapid Link was honored as a Top 500 firm by Telecom Business magazine, awarded the Market Engineering Customer Focus award by Frost & Sullivan and recognized as one of “10 to Watch” in 2000 by Intele-CardNews Magazine. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Rapid Link has operations in Atlanta; New York; Mannheim and Frankfurt, Germany; Okinawa, Japan; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Prague, Czech Republic and Seoul, Korea. For more information, please call 800.732.5465 or visit the Web site located at [][1].



Bankruptcy Slows

Even though Congress continues to reconcile differences in the bankruptcy reform legislation recently passed by the House and Senate, the bankruptcy landscape is changing. According to CardData ([][1]), the percentage of gross credit chargeoffs associated with bankruptcy has been steadily declining for the past eight months, from a high of 42.3% in June to 38.9% in February. The latest government figures also show the number of bankruptcy filings declined last year to 1.3 million compared to 1.44 million in 1998. Of the 1.3 million bankruptcy petitions filed last year, 1.28 million were consumer bankruptcies. In 1998, consumers filed 1.4 million personal bankruptcy petitions, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The compromised bankruptcy reform bill is expected to be hammered out within the next several months with a vote on the final version expected by year’s end. The White House supports the softer, Senate version of the legislation.