BAMS 4Q

BA Merchant Services, Inc. reported yesterday it processed 205 million transactions in the fourth quarter for a total of 714 million for all of 1998. BAMS processed 531 million in 1997. Total annual sales volume grew from $33.9 billion to $41.5 billion last year. However net income dropped for the fourth quarter due to charges for BAMS pending merger with BankAmerica Corp. On Dec. 22 BankAmerica and BAMS signed a definitive merger agreement in which Bank of America will acquire all of the publicly held Class A shares.

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Charge-Offs Sink

Credit card charge-offs reported in January for the December collection period fell 27 basis points to 6.00%, sinking to its lowest level since Jan. 1997, and well below January 1998’s level of 6.84%. According to Fitch IBCA’s ‘Credit Card Performance Indexes’, all five key measures registered better results versus month- and year-earlier comparisons. For example, the Fitch IBCA ’60+ Day Delinquency Index’ fell 11 basis points to 3.15% and is significantly below the 3.62% level from a year ago. Performance of portfolio yields and total monthly payment rates increased from the prior month, and rose moderately from year-ago levels of 19.45% and 15.21% to 19.57% and 15.62%, respectively. Fitch also noted that the three-month excess spread rebounded to 5.34% from 5.15% last month–a level not experienced since Oct. 1994. The Fitch IBCA index is based on the performance of $185 billion in credit card-backed securities. According to preliminary figures produced by CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]), end-of-year receivables for the industry were about $450 billion.

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

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Duncan to iMALL Board

iMALL, Inc. announced that John F. Duncan, age 37, has been elected to the iMALL board of directors.

Duncan is executive vice president, Business Development of First Data Merchant Services Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of First Data Corp. (NYSE:FDC). This move increases the size of the iMALL board to eight.

“The addition of John Duncan to our Board of Directors further enhances our prominence as an e-commerce company,” stated Richard Rosenblatt, chairman and chief executive officer of iMALL. “John’s wealth of direct experience in our sector, both from his ongoing tenure with our partner, First Data Merchant Services, and his prior work with MasterCard International will provide iMALL with strong strategic counsel going forward.”

Duncan’s recent responsibilities at First Data Merchant Services (FDMS) have focused on Internet commerce opportunities, including membership on FDMS’ e-commerce steering committee. Since joining FDMS in 1994, Duncan has directed efforts including the introduction of Internet product offerings, the formation of e-commerce alliances and the development and implementation of FDMS’ marketing and branding strategies.

Duncan also led FDMS as it forged strategic partnerships with Fortune 500 companies including Chase Manhattan Bank and Wal-Mart. Prior to FDMS, Duncan was vice president, Emerging Markets at MasterCard International and vice president, Merchant Services at Citicorp. Duncan received an undergraduate degree in Marketing and an MBA in Finance from Hofstra University.

On Nov. 2, 1998 iMALL and FDMS agreed to provide a full array of Internet commerce solutions to FDMS’ clients and their merchant businesses. Under terms of the ten-year agreement, FDMS and iMALL will jointly market turnkey solutions providing comprehensive Internet services including storefront design and building, site hosting, payment-enabling electronic commerce functionality and online merchant application processing.

As part of the agreement, FDMS took an equity interest in iMALL and gained preferred-provider marketing rights relating to iMALL’s shopping portal Stuff.com ([www.stuff.com][1]).

About iMALL

iMALL (Nasdaq:IMAL), a pioneer in electronic commerce services, enables and supports small and medium-sized businesses in their effort to cost effectively engage in electronic commerce through the use of iMALL’s proprietary e-commerce tools and services. iMALL offers its e-commerce services directly to merchants, as well as through partnerships with leading ISPs, Web hosting firms and financial service companies with an Internet focus.

The company operates the largest shopping mall on the Internet, located at www.imall.com, as well as the mall at animalhouse.com, the most popular destination on the Internet among college students. iMALL recently launched an innovative shopping portal and powerful product-level search engine, Stuff.com(SM), “The best place to buy Stuff(SM)” and “The best place to sell Stuff(SM).”

About First Data Merchant Services

First Data Merchant Services Corp. (FDMS), a wholly owned subsidiary of First Data Corp. (NYSE: FDC), is one of the nation’s leading providers of electronic commerce solutions for hundreds of financial institutions and nearly 2 million businesses.

FDMS offers a full range of processing solutions including credit, debit, check and pre-paid payments, along with value-added information and Internet-based services. For further information, visit [http://www.firstdata.com.][2]

[1]: http://www.stuff.com
[2]: http://www.firstdata.com

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Hypercom Enters Germany

Hypercom, a global provider of electronic payment solutions, announced Tuesday that it is expanding its European presence and is entering the German payments market.

Hypercom has selected INTERNET A.G., a respected German payments technology solution provider as a distributor to introduce Hypercom’s end-to-end payment solutions to banks, third-party processors and merchants in Germany. Hypercom’s entry into the German payment market extends the number of European countries Hypercom now operates in to 12, and more than 60 countries worldwide.

Rob Meli, Managing Director of Hypercom Europe commented: “We are pleased to announce the availability of Hypercom’s point-of-sale electronic payment solutions to Germany’s business community and delighted that INTERNET A.G. will be distributing our products. INTERNET A.G. has been supporting point-of-sale terminals, providing telemarketing in-and outbound services, and help desk and installation services. This highly-respected distributor has the logistical and technical expertise and market awareness to bring Hypercom’s innovative solutions to the German marketplace.”

INTERNET A.G. will sell and support Hypercom’s end-to-end family of electronic payment products, including the company’s ICE interactive touch-screen, consumer-operated point-of-sale (POS) terminals, networking systems and the Ascendent(TM) family of payment and data transaction processing and Internet payment software.

Hypercom’s recently-announced ICE 5000 terminal is the first multi-function touch-screen smart card terminal with integrated high security PIN Pad, FastPOS 9600 baud modem, electronic signature capture, high-speed thermal printer and automated paper cutter. The intuitive touch-screen simplifies operations, reduces training costs and allows banks to quickly deploy new payment applications.

“The need to offer new payment services, limit fraud, lower transaction costs and differentiate service offerings is leading German banks to develop new card-based payment systems and expand the number of POS terminals. In comparison to France and the UK, Germany has far fewer terminals and that represents significant opportunities and benefits for payment solution providers and users alike,” according to Rob Meli.

“It’s not just the potential for traditional payment locations that excites us about the German market, but also the rapid development of virtual shopping,” continued Mr. Rob Meli. “The payment options and loyalty programs that are now available on main street also have to be accessible to the Internet shopper. We have chosen INTERNET A.G. because of their experience in this area. They are ideally-positioned to support payment transactions over the Internet with Hypercom’s Ascendent Internet Commerce solutions.”

Andrew Tiedeman, the Managing Director of INTERNET A.G., comments: “Hypercom brings both state-of-the-art payment technology and global experience to the German POS market. German banks, retailers and third-party processors will be able to gain differentiation and business advantages by adopting these new payment solutions.”

About Hypercom Corporation

Hypercom (NYSE: HYC) is a global provider of electronic payment solutions, including innovative point-of-sale terminals, network products and Ascendent transaction processing software solutions. On a global basis Hypercom delivers the services and technology infrastructure required to quickly integrate and deploy new payment and added value applications to improve business performance and lower total cost of ownership.

Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Hypercom markets its products on all continents, with installations in over 60 countries. European sales and support offices are located in the United Kingdom, Hungary and Russia. In addition local EMEA distributors have been appointed in Poland, Romania, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Mauritius, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Bahrain, Jordan, Israel and South Africa. Further information on Hypercom and its products can be found at [www.Hypercom.com][1]

About INTERNET A.G.

INTERNET A.G. was founded in 1994 and is located in Frankfurt, Germany. A Full Solution Provider, the company offers a variety of custom-made solutions ranging from Internet Access, Firewall Systems, Network Solutions, Web Storefront Development, through to Electronic Commerce and Payment on the Internet. Through its Electronic Commerce Competence Center, Internet A.G. promotes, implements and supports all payment solutions that prove beneficial to client merchant by defining the business requirements for customers, technical implementation and providing support. INTERNET A.G. has offices in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Weinheim and Munich. Further information about the company and its products can be found at .

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

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FreeBill Released

Businesses will now be able to offer their customers the convenience of receiving and paying bills via direct e-mail because of an electronic billing breakthrough developed by Brinkman Technologies, Inc. (BTI).  BTI’s FreeBill system offers businesses and government agencies an in-house alternative to the expensive “third party toll-way” model currently in existence, benefiting businesses and consumers with no transaction fees and more control over the bill payment process.

Using their existing e-mail service, consumers will receive billing statements directly from their vendor as an e-mail attachment.  To pay the bill, consumers will simply click on a hyperlink to their online billing statement, where they will be able to select from several payment options. With FreeBill, the biller now has the ability to process the payment on the date specified by the customer without third-party intervention or the need to hold an account at a participating financial institution.  This process marks a revolutionary shift in an industry dependent upon such companies since the inception of the electronic bill payment.

With lower front-end costs, no ongoing transaction fees, and complete in- house control over their electronic billing system, this new bill presentment and payment model will attract businesses that previously found the cost of electronic billing prohibitive.  The current electronic billing model requires businesses to make a substantial up-front investment and pay ongoing transaction fees for the privilege of using a third party processor (such as CheckFree and TransPoint) to send billing information, debit the customers’ bank accounts and collect payments.  FreeBill allows companies to automate this process and keep total in-house control over their billing systems and customer data.  The system converts the current flow of paper bills and checks into electronic media.

“Technology should make our lives easier and businesses more efficient, therefore reducing costs to businesses and consumers,” said Mark Brinkman, BTI president.  “Unlike the current electronic billing model, FreeBill allows businesses to keep their customer data private and avoid ongoing transaction fees that would eventually be passed on to the consumer.  The bottom line benefits are the cost savings and enhanced security for consumers, making FreeBill a superior choice for businesses.”

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Wards Bankruptcy

Montgomery Ward & Co. said Monday it will emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid 1999 as a result of an agreement reached with Wards’ Creditors’ Committee. As a first step in the agreement, GE Capital, a major creditor, is to acquire The Signature Group, the profitable direct marketing arm of Wards which was not part of the retailer’s general bankruptcy filing.  Wards will then place a sum in a fund to settle court-approved pre-bankruptcy unsecured claims of creditors other than GE Capital.  GE Capital and Wards management will receive the equity in the reorganized retailer. In the last 18 months, Wards closed more than 100 under-performing stores.

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CoinBank to Military

Cash Technologies, Inc. announced Monday that its wholly owned subsidiary, CoinBank Automated Systems, Inc., has signed an agreement with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to install its CoinBank advanced coin deposit machines at selected U.S. Army and Air Forcebases. AAFES is the agency responsible for the purchase and sale of consumer merchandise and services for all United States Army and Air Force bases around the world, and operates more than 1400 retail facilities in all 50 states and 25 countries.

“This contract demonstrates the value of integrating CoinBank’s e-commerce technology into its coin counting machines,” said Cash Technologies Chairman and CEO Bruce Korman. “In addition to offering U.S. soldiers, airmen and their families the first convenient method to dispose of loose coin, AAFES is the largest purchaser of prepaid phone cards in the world and can benefit from CoinBank’s ability to electronically issue and dispense phone cards. This capability provided CoinBank with a key advantage in the fierce competition for this award.”

There are a number of military bases in the U.S. that could be described as virtual cities, with their own ordinances, schools, retail stores and populations exceeding 100,000 military and civilian residents, providing potential opportunities for multiple CoinBank(R) installations at each base. Following these initial installations, the Company anticipates extending the scope of the agreement throughout the AAFES system.

Cash Technologies, Inc. develops and markets innovative e-commerce kiosks, including advanced self-service coin counters and the multi-function ATM-X(TM) automated teller machine.The Company also provides computerized cash processing services to banks, armored carriers, rapid transit agencies and other cash-intensive businesses.

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DOJ – Citicorp

The Department of Justice agreed Monday to dismiss its suit seeking to block Citicorp Service Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Transactive Corporation’s EBT system business, now that Citicorp is abandoning the deal. The decision follows the decision by Citicorp to terminate its agreement with GTECH, Transactive’s parent company, to acquire the EBT system business. The DOJ said the proposed acquisition would have substantially limited competition among EBT services vendors. Citicorp is the dominant provider of EBT services as the prime contractor with 29 states. Until the proposed acquisition agreement was announced, Transactive, headquartered in Austin, Texas, was Citicorp’s major competitor and was the prime contractor in 3 states. Last week Citicorp won the EBT contract for the State of Maryland.

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Sub-Prime Twist

While most sub-prime issuers offering low-credit-limit cards levy high fees and/or high interest rates First National Bank of Marin has come up with the idea of a partially-secured VISA card. In solicitations mailed out this week to sub-prime prospects, FNBM is guaranteeing approval for a $300, $400 or $600 credit line. Upon issuance of the VISA card FNBM takes a $200 cash advance against the credit line and deposits it into a savings account. Applicants are required to send $40 towards the $99 enrollment fee when submitting the application. There is also an additional $35 enrollment fee if the applicant’s credit report shows derogatory information or a history of past charged off debt. The VISA card carries a 19.8% fixed APR and an annual fee of $72. The full solicitation is available via CardWatch ([www.cardwatch.com][1]).

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

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Magic Moments

VISA reported yesterday there were 16,826 winners in the ‘Magic Moments’ holiday promotion. All together the winners were awarded free purchases totaling more than $1.2 million. Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, VISA randomly selected, each day, a one-second magic moment when VISA card purchases were free. The moment with the most transactions occurred on Dec. 8 with 1,332 transactions. The largest free purchase was made at an auto repair shop in Virginia for about $6,000. The smallest free VISA purchase was made at the U.S. Post Office for 32 cents. Other free VISA purchases included jewelry, college tuition and cruise tickets. VISA says member support was extensive with nearly 100 million statement stuffers distributed.

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Double Points

American Express launched a nationwide promotion to award double points for spending at supermarkets and drug stores from now through April 30th. The promotion is open to U.S. cardholders who have cards enrolled in the ‘Membership Rewards’ program, or who have the ‘Delta SkyMiles Credit Card’, the ‘American Express Golf Card’, the ‘Hilton Optima Card’, the ‘New York Knicks Card’ or the ‘New York Rangers Card’. Supermarkets and drug stores nationwide, as well as several online stores such as Peapod, Netgrocer and mybasics, that accept the American Express Card, are participating in the promotion.

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Free RADAR

ST. Louis-based Retention Marketing Consulting Group announced that new clients to its ‘RADAR’ service, signing up before March 1, will receive the year 2000 free. Retention ‘RADAR’ is a service designed to help issuers gain insight into how competing card brands communicate with cardholders. The service offers a comprehensive probe into retention marketing strategies.

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