Marbles Game

A small British public relations firm, called Marbles, is standing firm in the face of a multi-million dollar launch of a new Internet credit card for the UK, also called marbles, by Household Finance Corporation’s UK arm, HFC Bank.

“We’ve always known it’s a good name – we’ve traded successfully with this brand for more than eight years,” says Jan Stannard, joint managing director of Marbles, “so we’re not surprised that someone else has decided to use it.”

“However, it is interesting they have launched marbles as an online brand when we own the domain name, [www.marbles.co.uk][1]. We will not be changing our brand or Internet domain, and we do regret the confusion that will inevitably be created when consumers come to our site by mistake, through no fault of ours.

“We are surprised that, from the initial press coverage we’ve seen, they have used a visual identity for the card that is remarkably similar to our logo, which has been in continuous use for eight years.”

Marbles is one of the country’s best-performing PR agencies, known for its work in the consumer and technology sectors. The Internet is a particular strength.

[1]: http://www.marbles.co.uk/

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Web Merchants

Books, CDs and bidding services continue to dominate the top Internet merchant rankings according to NextCard’s ‘eCommerce Index’. The NextCard index is a monthly listing of the top 25 online merchants and the top 10 movers based on the number of online purchase transactions by approximately 100,000 ‘NextCard VISA’ customers.

September Top 5 Online Merchants
Rank Movement Merchant
1. +1 AMAZON.COM
2. -1 AOL ONLINE SERVICE
3. +2 CD NOW/MUSIC BOULEVARD
4. — EARTHLINK NETWORK
5. -2 BUY.COM

Source: NextCard eCommerce Index

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Polish Private Label Card

PaySys International, Inc. announced Monday that Finplus has licensed the ‘VisionPLUS'(TM) card management system and the data warehouse product ‘Infosource’ to roll-out the first private-label card program in Poland. Finplus is a joint-venture between Cofinoga, one of the largest private-label card issuers in Europe, and Poland’s Bank Slaski. Finplus, which will use ‘VisionPLUS’ for its card issuing and merchant acquiring operations, will be one of the first PaySys clients to go live on ‘VisionPLUS’ in Central Europe. PaySys entered the European market one year ago.

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ICQ Phone Card

Net2Phone Inc. the leading provider of Internet telephony services, and ICQ, the world’s largest online communications community and an interactive brand from America Online Monday unveiled the “ICQ Phone Card Powered by Net2Phone,” a virtual pre-paid calling card that routes calls over Net2Phone’s IP network.

The card, available at icqphone.icq.com, will initially offer telephone calls from the United States to anywhere in the world at rates up to 70% less than traditional phone cards. The companies plan to make the cards available to ICQ users in 19 additional countries in the coming months.

This announcement is the first in a series of initiatives under a four-year agreement between Net2Phone and ICQ to provide a suite of Internet telephony services to ICQ customers, including PC-to-phone, PC-to-PC, and phone-to-PC services.

ICQ Phone card users will be able to sign up for phone service online and check their account status online at [www.icqphone.com][1], where they can access their call history and billing detail. Users will also be able to recharge their accounts online.

Rates for the ICQ Phone card are 4.9 cents per minute for domestic calls using local access (currently available in most metro areas), and 7.9 cents per minute for domestic calls using toll free access. International rates are as low as 9 cents per minute. Users will receive 30 minutes of free domestic minutes after an initial $10.00 purchase. The ICQ Phone card will be marketed directly to ICQ users through links and banners from ICQ’s home page at [www.icq.com][2].

Ariel Yarnitsky, Co-GM of ICQ Israeli Operations, said: “We’re extremely pleased to offer this convenient and cost effective international phone service to ICQ registrants as the first in a series of Internet telephony offerings. ICQ and Net2Phone are poised to take instant communications between ICQ registrants to the next level. Be it phone-to-PC, PC-to-phone, or PC-to-PC, we’re going to make it cheaper, faster, and easier than ever before.”

Howie Balter, CEO of Net2Phone, said: “This new co-branded Internet phone card will help pass on convenience and cost savings to the registered users of ICQ. We are very happy to be working with the world’s largest online community of more than 42 million registrants to provide value-added and top quality service and look forward to launching our new co-branded products in the months to come.”

About ICQ

Created in 1996 by the Israel-based company, Mirabilis, and acquired by America Online, Inc. in June 1998, the ICQ proprietary interactive service is the world’s largest communications community with more than 42 million registrants worldwide. The ICQ service is a communications portal built around the ability to seek and communicate with your friends, family and colleagues online. ICQ’s unique, very popular, free software (available for download at [www.icq.com][3]) is loaded with vital and fun communications tools such as its flagship instant messaging and real-time chat features, plus Web functionality such as ICQ iT! search, and ICQ White Pages, which allow members to find like-minded members within the ICQ community. ICQ is part of the AOL Interactive Properties Group.

About Net2Phone

Net2Phone is a leading provider of voice-enhanced Internet communications services to individuals and businesses worldwide. Net2Phone enables people to place low-cost high quality calls from their computer, telephone, or fax machine to any telephone or fax machine in the world. Net2Phone develops and markets technology and services for IP voice and e-commerce solutions for the web and other IP networks. For more information about Net2Phone’s products and services, please visit [www.net2phone.com][4].

[1]: http://www.icqphone.com/
[2]: http://www.icq.com/
[3]: http://www.icq.com/
[4]: http://www.net2phone.com/

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Lending.Com System

Atlanta-based InfiLink Corp. launched a streamlined version of its Internet and interactive voice response loan application system. The ‘Lending.com’ system enables lenders, including issuers of bank credit cards, to offer around-the-clock loan application capability to customers and prospects through the lenders’ own web sites and unique toll-free phone numbers. Consumers are connected directly to a personalized ‘Loan Center’ web page, where the automated loan support system immediately processes the loan request. InfiLink’s automated system captures data from the applicant; accesses the designated credit bureau for the applicant’s credit file and score; and evaluates the applicant’s qualification status according to lender-designated criteria. Loan prospects learn the status of their applications within 60 seconds. Information about each loan application is then faxed to the lender. InfiLink says it can have a financial institutions online within 30 days with Internet and IVR capability. InfiLink Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of InfiCorp Holdings Inc., provides loan pre-qualification and pre-approval services to more than 200 banks, credit unions, mortgage companies and consumer service groups. InfiLink was formed in mid-July following the acquisition by InfiCorp Holdings of the Internet, telephone marketing and credit application services division of NJ-based The BISYS Group, Inc.

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M&I + AMS

M&I Data Services, a leading financial software and services provider, and American Management Systems, Inc. , Fairfax, Va., a leading worldwide provider of customer management consulting, systems integration, and retail credit and decision support systems Monday jointly announced they have signed a strategic alliance agreement. Through this alliance, the two firms are uniquely positioned to provide industry-leading retail credit management consulting and data processing services to a wide spectrum of financial services providers.

The alliance’s services will enable its clients to leverage information to retain and grow customer relationships. Under the terms of the agreement, M&I Data Services will offer, on an outsourced basis, AMS’s fully automated, state-of-the-art credit management solution, CreditLine, complete with Internet capability and sophisticated decision engine. The CreditLine solution consists of AMS’s originations, servicing, and collections offerings — Automated Credit Application Processing System (ACAPS(R)) Enterprise with Credit Xpress, BureauLink(R) Enterprise, Advanced Consumer Lending System (ACLS(R)) Enterprise, and Computer-Assisted Collection System (CACS(R)) Enterprise, as well as the Strata(R)Enterprise decision engine.

This unparalleled offering combines the outsourcing expertise of M&I Data Services with AMS’s industry leadership in credit and customer value management.

“M&I Data Services is excited to enter this alliance with an organization like AMS that furthers our aim of delivering the highest-quality information and data processing services in the industry,” said Greg Schmieding, senior vice president and general manager within the Enterprise Solutions Group, M&I Data Services. “These solutions can shave months off market entry plans, while allowing current providers to speed growth and improve profitability.”

“Given the increasing competition for financial services customers, all providers regardless of size need to focus on what they do best — serving customers,” said Nicholas C. Bradick, AMS vice president and group manager, Consumer Financial Services Group. “The combination of cost-efficient data processing and effective use of information for increased customer value can make a powerful difference in the marketplace.”

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., M&I Data Services is a division of Marshall & Ilsley Corporation (Nasdaq: MRIS), a $22.8 billion holding company. M&I Data Services provides leading-edge technology solutions to the financial services industry, offering consulting, software and processing solutions for financial institutions worldwide.

The company’s rapid growth is being fueled by innovative product development, strategic product acquisitions, and strong growth of its customer relationships. The company had total revenues of $509 million in 1998. For more information visit the M&I Data Services Web site at . AMS’s Consumer Financial Services practice specializes in customer management strategy and technology consulting for large institutions. The firm’s interactive Customer Value Management (iCVM) methodology enables financial services providers to enhance the value of customer relationships by linking customer management strategies with retail delivery execution across all channels.

AMS is a world-class international business and information technology consulting firm. As one of the 20 largest consulting firms worldwide, AMS provides a full range of services and solutions: eCommerce, customer value management, business re-engineering, change management, knowledge management, systems integration, and systems development and implementation. Founded in 1970, AMS is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with over 8,000 employees and 57 offices worldwide. AMS had 1998 revenues of $1.06 billion, with eCommerce- related revenues representing 20%, an increase of almost 150% over 1997. Forbes magazine ranked AMS number 94 out of 400 of the best-performing big companies in the U.S. in their “Best of the Biggest.” AMS can be found on the World Wide Web at amsinc.com .

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AmEx Rewards

American Express has beefed-up its ‘Membership Rewards’ program to include two new program levels: ‘Membership Rewards Plus’ and ‘Membership Rewards Options’. ‘Membership Rewards Options’ is available today and ‘Membership Rewards Plus’ will become available later this month. Membership Rewards Plus is designed for cardholders who travel frequently and desire maximum flexibility of rewards. ‘Plus’ cardholders have all the benefits of the existing ‘Membership Rewards’ program plus two new, specially designed features ‘Your Ticket’ and ‘Your Reward’. ‘Your Ticket’ permits enrollees to obtain airline tickets to any destination in the world from any airline without blackout dates and frequent flyer seat restrictions. ‘Your Reward’ allows enrollees to use ‘Membership Rewards’ points to pay for any item charged on their AmEx card, including the card’s annual fee. The annual fee for the ‘Plus’ option is generally $75. ‘Membership Rewards Options’ is designed for cardholders who desire lower redemption levels and a lower annual fee. With an annual fee of $15, ‘Membership Rewards Options’ points earned have a different redemption value compared to the other ‘Membership Rewards’ programs. For example, a $25 gift certificate to Champs Sports would require 3,500 points for ‘Membership Rewards Options’ enrollees and 2,500 points for ‘Membership Rewards’ enrollees. The rewards program was first launched in the U.S. 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 ‘Membership Rewards’. There are now 32 ‘Membership Rewards’ programs around the world. For more details on the new AmEx program options visit CardTrak ([www.cardtrak.com][1]).

[1]: http://www.cardtrak.com

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Carolina Phone Signs ORGA

ORGA Card Systems Inc., one of the world’s leading providers of advanced smart cards, has been contracted to deliver its most advanced 16K dual-mode GSM SIM cards to Carolina PCS I Limited Partnership, which does business in South Carolina as Carolina Phone Company.

Scheduled to launch its new network during the fourth quarter of 1999, Carolina Phone will additionally utilize ORGA’s Over-The-Air Application Platform as well as the company’s unique GSM Yellow Pages.

According to Mike Green, President & CEO of Carolina Phone, ORGA’s selection as a business partner was based on its proven industry performance. “The smart card specialist received top grades in engineering quality and customer service from other PCS operators who worked with the company to successfully launch their own wireless networks,” Green said.

“In 1998 we introduced an innovative program to help small to mid-sized PCS operators across the U.S. get their new networks up and running with smooth efficiency,” reports Frank Barbalace, ORGA’s Business Development Manager for U.S. Telecom Services. “Many of these same customers are also taking advantage of our OTA Express Gateway and GSM Yellow Pages to simplify and add value to their subscribers’ service.”

Carolina Phone owns wireless licenses for the nine contiguous Basic Trading Areas (BTAs) in South Carolina as well as portions of Georgia and North Carolina. Carolina Phone’s licensed area covers approximately 3.5 million potential subscribers throughout the region.

ORGA USA is the North American subsidiary of ORGA Kartensysteme GmbH Germany, has been a pioneer in the development of microprocessor-based smart card technology since 1985. The company is one of the largest global suppliers of SIMs, with over 75 million SIM cards delivered and future commitments for millions more. Visit our Web Site at [www.orga.com][1]

[1]: http://www.orga.com/

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Sprint Renames Cards

Underscoring that brand is everything, Sprint announced Friday it will migrate the branding of the Sprint name back to its prepaid phone cards. The cards have been marketed under the ‘Spree Foncard’ name since 1993 and will gradually be replaced by a new Sprint prepaid calling card, the ‘Sprint Prepaid Phonecard’. Besides a new look, the phone card will offer consumers a recharge option for adding more minutes. Sprint also says it will eliminate the $100 phone card. This month, Sprint will begin offering a rechargeable minutes option whereby card users call a toll-free number and use a major credit card to add more minutes to their existing card. Sprint says that recent research showed three times as many prepaid calling card users described the card as a ‘Sprint’ card rather than a ‘Spree’ card. The Sprint Phonecard, available at more than 30,000 retail outlets including the Sprint Store at Radio Shack, Sprint PCS stores, grocery chains and discount merchandisers, includes dollar denominations of $5, $10, $20, $30 and $50. Analysts project market-wide prepaid sales to grow close to $3.5 billion in 1999 and nearly $4 billion in 2000.

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Marbles Card

Household International’s U.K. bank, HFC Bank, announced over the weekend it will unveil an Internet-based credit card in about two weeks. The new card, to be called ‘Marbles’, is the second Internet-based card to be launched in the U.K. Last month Prudential Corp. Plc introduced the ‘Egg’ credit card through its British Internet bank under the same name. Both cards will accept applications online and will deliver card statements via the Internet. However the HFC ‘Marbles’ card will also offer support and accept applications over the telephone. Prudential’s ‘Egg’ credit card is exclusively an online card product. ‘Marbles’ is offering a six-month 5.9% intro rate followed by a 14.9% APR. The ‘Egg’ card currently offers a six-month 4.5% intro rate followed by a rate as low as 9.9%. ‘Egg’ also offers up to a 2% rebate for online purchases. HFC will reportedly spend more than US$16 million to promote the ‘Marbles’ product. The card will be extensively promoted over Britian’s largest internet service provider, Freeserve Plc. HFC has signed a marketing agreement with Freeserve to pay US$8 million over five years plus a fee for each new account acquired and a portion of the interchange fee. FULL STORY:

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MBNA Auburn Card

MBNA America, N.A., has been selected as the new credit card provider for the Auburn Alumni Association’s Alumni Spirit Card program.

The program offers no-fee, low interest MasterCard and VISA cards to Association members and royalties from the program are returned to Auburn University through the Association. These royalties benefit the Association’s academic support efforts which include providing scholarships, professorships, and teaching and research awards for outstanding students and faculty.

“The success of the Auburn Spirit Card program through the years has allowed the Alumni Association to benefit the university in a variety of ways,” said Bill Porter, Auburn Alumni Association president. “We look forward to our new relationship with MBNA, one of the leading credit card providers in the nation. They have an outstanding reputation for customer service and are very experienced in the collegiate card arena. We will be working closely with them in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition.”

MBNA and the Association will offer several card options, including a Platinum Plus VISA with credit lines up to $100,000, low introductory annual percentage rates for cash advance checks and balance transfers, $1 million in common carrier travel accident insurance, and inclusion in MBNA’s Platinum Plus registry, which offers card and document registry, emergency cash, and replacement airline tickets. A preferred VISA will also be available.

Current Auburn Spirit Card holders will receive more information on how to obtain their new MBNA cards in October. Only MBNA-issued cards will return royalties to Auburn through the Alumni Association. Alumni and friends who do not currently have a Spirit Card but who wish to obtain more information on how to get one can call the Association at 334-844-2960.

“We selected MBNA in order to provide our cardholders with the very best customer service and card benefits available,” said Porter. “The cards provide alumni and friends with a great way to support Auburn while receiving excellent benefits.”

MBNA Corporation (NYSE: KRB), a bank holding company and parent of MBNA America, N.A., a national bank, has more than $66 billion in managed loans. MBNA, the largest independent credit card lender in the world, also provides retail deposit, consumer loan, and insurance products.

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