Wakefield, MA-based New England Bankcard Association Inc. has chosen to renew its bankcard processing agreement with First Data Resources Inc. for an additional five years.  Under the agreement, First Data will provide credit, debit, commercial, and private label card processing services, as well as merchant processing services to NEBA through 2003. NEBA, which serves over 75 issuing and acquiring financial institutions and businesses, has been a First Data client since 1980.


CheckFree Software Head

CheckFree announced the addition of Michael Meriton as senior vice president of the Company, and president of Corporate Commerce Solutions, a unit of CheckFree’s Software Division.  He will be responsible for all elements of the CCS business and will report directly to CheckFree Software Division President Sean Feeney.

CheckFree’s CCS business unit provides a portfolio of leading-edge software targeted toward essential reconciliation and compliance operations of financial services and government institutions, corporations, retailers, and utilities worldwide.

Meriton brings to CheckFree more than 17 years of leadership in executive management and sales at ADP, ORACLE and Dun & Bradstreet Software (now part of Geac Corporation).  Most recently, he was the founder and general manager of JGI/BAAN, a mid-market systems integrator for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from Baan Corporation, one of the top five suppliers of ERP solutions.  This business, formed in early 1997, completed 1998 with more than 45 employees and contract revenues exceeding $15 million.

Meriton attributes JGI/Baan’s success to the concept of a “Software Reference Factory,” which focused all activities around creating highly referenceable customers.  Prior to this, Meriton led Dun & Bradstreet Software’s Northeast region to become the Company’s top revenue-producing region worldwide in 1996.  This achievement was based on targeting and winning contracts with leading firms in the financial services industry, including insurance, banking and brokerage firms.

“Mike Meriton is a proven software executive with a wealth of experience in the financial software industry, and is a strategic addition to our management team,” stated Feeney.

Meriton will work out of CheckFree’s CCS headquarters office in Owings Mills, Md.

About CheckFree

Founded in 1981, CheckFree (), the operating subsidiary of CheckFree Holdings Corporation, is the leading provider of financial electronic commerce services, software and related products for more than 2.6 million consumers, 1,000 businesses and 850 financial institutions. CheckFree designs, develops and markets services that enable its customers to make electronic payments and collections, automate paper-based recurring financial transactions and conduct secure financial transactions on the Internet.


FDC 4Q/98

First Data Corp. reported Friday that fourth quarter revenues declined 2.2% due to recent divestiture activity. Card issuer services revenues also decreased in the fourth quarter by 2% to $380 million. FDC says the decline reflects the expected reduction in revenues from customer service and information management compared to the prior year. Volume trends remain strong with total accounts on file up 17% to 212 million, while active accounts increased 12%. For the year, card issuer revenues increased 6.2% to $1,434 million. Processing revenues increased 9%, while information services revenues declined 8%. Merchant processing services revenues were essentially flat for both the fourth quarter and the year at $389 million and $1,394 million, respectively. In merchant card processing in the quarter, dollar volume processed increased 11%. Operating profits declined 4% to $264 million.


Mobius Signs Northeast Utilities

Mobius Management Systems, Inc.  a leading provider of software for Internet viewing and document archiving, today announced that Northeast Utilities will implement electronic bill presentment and payment using Mobius Internet software.

NU customers will see their electric bills on-line at the biller’s Web site. Using their account numbers and personal identification numbers, enrolled customers will access current and previous bills and decide when and how much to pay.

The Mobius EBPP solution provides Internet access to the billing archive, giving consumers a complete self-service environment for retrieving not just current and previous bills, but all documentation about their accounts and transactions. The software is a component of the Mobius Electronic Document Warehouse (EDW), an Internet-based architecture for integrating diverse customer information. The EDW supports both paper and electronic billing, allowing companies to manage this transition by offering their customers the choice of electronic bill presentment or traditional paper statements or both.

“We’re pleased that Northeast Utilities has chosen Mobius software for EBPP,” said Mitchell Gross, president and CEO of Mobius Management Systems, Inc. “Internet-based billing and customer care represent an important opportunity for billers to reduce costs and strengthen customer relationships. The Mobius EDW, which can house billions of statements, bills, check images, remittance slips — virtually every form of customer transaction — is the ideal foundation on which to build an EBPP offering.”

Berlin, Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities, ranked among the twenty-five largest utilities in the nation, is the largest utility in New England. The company plans to make the EBPP service available by June to the 1.2 million customers of its subsidiaries, The Connecticut Light and Power Company (CL&P) and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO). The service will be extended later in the year to the 400,000 customers of Public Service Company of New Hampshire, another NU subsidiary.

“NU customers with access to the Internet will be able to electronically receive, pay, store and retrieve electric bills through one central Web site, making the bill payment process completely paperless,” said Kevin T. Charette, NU Director of Customer Services. “Our customers will no longer have to write checks, purchase stamps or travel to a mailbox or the post office,” Charette added. “We’re sure they will find this service very useful and convenient.”

About Mobius

Mobius Management Systems, Inc. ( is a leading provider of enterprise-wide Electronic Document Warehouse solutions in support of electronic commerce, customer service and improved productivity. Founded in 1981, the company develops and markets a complete family of software products to integrate and archive large volumes of diverse documents and transactions and make them available over corporate networks and the Internet. Mobius products are used by more than 1,200 organizations worldwide, including banks, insurance companies, financial services providers, utilities and telecommunications companies. More than half of the Fortune 100 companies use Mobius software. The company is headquartered in Rye, New York, with eleven domestic offices and foreign subsidiaries located in England, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and Japan.


Super Bowl Winners

MasterCard’s “Cartoon Celebrities” Super Bowl commercial scored the highest among credit card related TV commercials last night. According to USA Today’s “Super Bowl Ad Meter”, MasterCard scored a 7.40. The “Ad Meter” wired-up a team of panelists in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles with special hand-held meters to rank the Super Bowl’s 55 commercials. VISA’s “Guy Gets Locked in Bathroom” spot scored a 7.32 while VISA’s “Buckingham Palace Guard Dresses Down” ranked a 6.69. The heavily promoted American Express “Jerry Seinfeld on TV Set” 60-second commercial came in last, among card related ads, with a 6.63. The four “Super Bowl” ads from the card brands will be available this afternoon via CardWatch ([][1]).

Last night’s top rated ads included four Budweiser spots: “Dalmatians Get Different Jobs” an 8.01; “Lobster Dodges Death” a 7.93; “Frog Zaps Louie” a 7.90; and “Guys Choose Beer Over Toilet Paper” a 7.79. According to Competitive Media Reporting the average cost of a 30-sec Super Bowl commercial was $1.4 million for this year’s event. Last year VISA, MasterCard and American Express spent $2.6 million apiece for ‘Super Bowl” ads. Five years ago 30-sec Super Bowl ads ran $900,000 each. VISA, the official NFL card, has consistently aired two spots since 1994.




Just how concentrated the bank credit card industry has become was illustrated with the end-of-year stats coming from CardData ([][1]). Based on year-end 1998 portfolio figures, the nation’s top five issuers have a collective market share of 58% compared to 37% for 1992. If the nation’s three largest consumer banking franchises, Citigroup, Bank One and Bank of America, each held $70 billion in card receivables, then the top three issuers would control 47% of the industry. Citigroup and Bank One each held slightly less than $70 billion at year-end. Bank of America, with about $21 billion in card outstandings and a 4.7% market share, is rumored to be aggressively looking for a major acquisition. A BofA acquisition of MBNA would instantly give BofA the additional market share. However it is believed BofA will slowly absorb mid-sized portfolios.

(based on bank credit card outstandings)
                 4Q/98 RECV        MS                       4Q/92 RECV        MS
1.Bank One     $69.9 billion     15.7%    1. Citibank     $32.3 billion     16.0%
2.Citigroup    $69.6 billion     15.6%    2. Discover     $14.7 billion      7.3%
3.MBNA         $53.7 billion     12.1%   3. Chase Man $10.1 billion      5.0%
4.Discover     $32.5 billion*     7.3%   4. B of A       $ 9.5 billion      4.7%
5.Chase Man.  $32.2 billion      7.2%   5. MBNA        $ 8.2 billion      4.1%

MS-marketshare; *Notes-Discover’s 1998 data are for fiscal quarter ending 11/30/98
Source: CardWeb’s CardData service(



AT&T Phone Card Deal

AT&T is expected to make several major announcements today including an exclusive deal to distribute prepaid phone cards through Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. AT&T won the contract for 1999 to beat-out Wal-Mart’s current phone card provider, MCI WorldCom. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, the Wal-Mart phone card deal will give AT&T an immediate $100 million share of the market. Wal-Mart has 2,400 stores and Sam’s Club has 450 outlets. AT&T will also announce a new service bundling land  line services with wireless services for a special package price.


Commerce Offers WebTurboTax

Commerce Bank announced Friday agreement with Intuit to offer WebTurboTax through its Website ([][1]).

This will allow easy access to Intuit’s Web-based version of its popular TurboTax personal tax preparation software program.

Commerce Bank is dedicated to providing banking services where and when people want to bank.  Services that allow customers to access their accounts 24 hours a day, including over 300 ATMs throughout Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, 24-Hour Account Information Line, PC Banking, Visa Check Card, direct deposit, automatic bill payment and the Internet ([][2]).

WebTurboTax allows taxpayers to easily complete all the same Federal and State income tax returns as with TurboTax desktop software, but with the added convenience of preparing and filing their tax returns on the Web. Because the tax return is prepared on a secure Intuit server, users benefit by being able to prepare and file tax forms, anytime and anywhere, in a Web- browser format familiar to millions of Americans.

Because no downloading or software installation is necessary, users can log onto WebTurboTax from anywhere, anytime, to prepare their taxes. Taxpayers simply create a secure user name and password, which allows them to access their return from any computer.  Users also have the option of exiting the program at one point in the return and then logging back in from anywhere to pick up where they left off.  In addition, taxpayers can prepare their State returns with WebTurbo Tax in all 44 states that require an income tax, as well as the District of Columbia.  WebTurboTax transfers relevant Federal information to the State return, thus saving time and increasing accuracy for users.

The fee to prepare and file personal Federal returns (electronically or by mail) is $9.95 to $19.95, depending on the complexity of the return.  State returns can be prepared and filed for any state requiring an income tax for $9.95 to $19.95 each (including electronic filing).

Intuit has worked with the leading companies in the field of Internet security and uses only the latest in SSL encryption technology to design a secure system to protect taxpayers’ returns, and all personal information associated with them, during preparation and transmission.  When filing electronically, Intuit sends all returns directly to IRS computers, removing the risk of loss or mishandling inherent in paper returns.  The IRS also sends an electronic date stamp for each return successfully filed, which Intuit forwards to its users.

Taxpayers who file electronically receive proof from the IRS, an electronic date and time stamp, that their return was received on time.  In addition, the IRS processes electronically filed tax returns much faster than mailed returns, with refunds arriving as soon as  10 to 17 days after filing.  According to the IRS and Intuit, electronically filed returns have a less than 1 percent error rate, compared to 20 percent on manually prepared returns.

As with all TurboTax programs, Intuit guarantees that its WebTurboTax software calculations are accurate.  In the unlikely event that users are assessed an IRS or state penalty due to a calculation error in the software, Intuit will pay the customer the penalty plus any interest that may be charged.

Intuit Inc., a financial software and Web-based services company, develops and markets Quicken, the leading personal finance software; TurboTax, the best-selling tax preparation software; and Quickbooks, the most popular small business accounting software.

Commerce Bank is an affiliate of Commerce Bancshares Inc., a registered bank holding company offering a full line of banking services, including investment management and securities brokerage.  The company currently operates in approximately 300 locations in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas. The company also has operating subsidiaries involved in mortgage banking, credit related insurance, venture capital and real estate activities.



eConnect Signs

eConnect, has entered into an agreement with, a leading on-line casino, to provide secure financial transactions for the customers of 777WINS by using eConnect’s self-service terminals that accept credit cards, ATM cards and smart cards.

eConnect CEO, E. James Wexler, said, “777WINS has been consistently rated amongst the best Internet Gaming Sites. 777WINS has been ranked number one, two or three by rating services such as,, and Finest On-Line Casino.” Wexler continued, “we are extremely excited about this relationship and expect many more like it in the near future.”

eConnect’s proprietary terminals, located in public locations, give online customers a safe alternative to bypass the Internet with bank card data and personal data for Internet transactions. These financial transfers are also known as “PERFECT” (Personal Encrypted Remote Financial Card Transactions) transactions.

eConnect has plans to install 5,000 of the self-serviced terminals over the next 12 months in public locations such as hotels, sports bars, cyber cafes and malls to provide customers the flexibility to open accounts and make transactions with 777WINS, VIPsports, Goldmine Casino, eSportsbet, and others to come.

777WINS, a leading on-line virtual casino, has developed “QuickPlay,” a proprietary software to facilitate faster and easier playing of casino games. This state of the art software architecture does not require the tedious downloads common to most on-line gaming sites and can be played immediately on most standard web browsers and is compatible with WebTV.

eConnect is a high technology Internet entertainment company that operates in the electronic digital gaming and entertainment industry through two equal divisions.

The eGaming division of the Company markets a fully functioning sports book in San Jose, Costa Rica, and is developing an online internet gaming and entertainment website at, available by mid-March.

The eGaming division is in the business of licensing customized, turnkey Internet gaming systems to independent parties wanting to participate in the online gaming industry and provides a ready-to-use operation in exchange for participation in the licensees’ revenues.

With equal importance and focus the eGate division of eConnect facilitates eCommerce for On-Line Gaming companies by providing a common currency on the Internet through real-time same-as-cash electronic financial transactions known as “PERFECT” transactions which are real-time “Personal Encrypted Remote Financial Electronic Card Transactions.”


Actoras Hires Tonquette

Martin Luffy, managing partner of Actoras Consulting Group, announced the appointment of nationally recognized electronic payments expert, Del Tonguette to the Columbus office of the consulting company.  “Columbus is the ideal city for establishing an electronic payments consultancy,” declares Tonguette. “The city has long been a hub of creative and forward thinking companies involved in electronic payments and ecommerce.  Many pioneering ATM and POS programs started in Columbus, especially in banking, on-line services, retailing and transaction processing.”

Ecommerce’s Impact on Future

The Internet and ecommerce are dramatically shifting the management perception needed to prosper in a future that is fundamentally different than the past.  “The elements of change that are driving the future are based upon a connectivity that is putting everything and everybody online with one another,” says Tonguette.  “And this changes the very basic ways that business is conducted.  It takes a clear understanding of the information technology revolution to successfully navigate the competitive business arena.”

Del R. Tonguette

Del Tonguette is a 30 year veteran of the banking industry and is a highly regarded speaker, educator, and author in the industry.  He most recently was the principal of the consulting firm, Business and Marketing Solutions, and was instrumental in the development and implementation of a national EFT network, Calypso, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Calypso is based upon leading edge technology and communications and is predicted to initiate a shift in EFT technology and retail delivery strategies. Previously, Tonguette was President and CEO of GulfNet, Inc., New Orleans, which provided electronic banking services to financial institutions, retailers, and processors in the South Central United States and throughout the nation.  Formed with an initial investment of $200,000, the company was worth an estimated 12 to 15 million dollars when acquired by the Pulse EFT Association in early 1997. Actoras Consulting Group Actoras Consulting Group is a national executive management consulting firm with headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois.  With an average of 18 years experience, Actoras  consultants are recognized for building high value business and technology solutions that can give clients a strategic and unique edge in today’s competitive environment.


SmarTalk CEO Departs

SmarTalk TeleServices, Inc. Friday announced the departure of Erich Spangenberg as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Spangenberg will continue as a consultant to the Company at the request of the Board. Separately, SmarTalk also announced that Jeff Lindauer is no longer serving as President and Chief Operating Officer, having departed the Company to pursue other interests.

The Board of Directors of the Company will be working with SmarTalk’s remaining senior management team to oversee the Company’s day-to-day operations, pending the closing of the Company’s previously-announced sale of substantially all its assets to AT&T. The Board of Directors may appoint an interim Chief Executive Officer in the near future and anticipates that SmarTalk’s operations will continue in the ordinary course without disruption.

SmarTalk Teleservices, Inc. is a leading provider of prepaid calling cards and prepaid wireless services. Based in Dublin, Ohio, SmarTalk maintains distribution agreements with the U.S. Postal Service and leading mass merchandisers, consumer electronics retailers, supermarkets, hotels, home office superstores and convenience stores throughout North America and the U.K. Visit the SmarTalk website at [][1].



Blue Moon

An ATM at the Workington branch of NatWest in the U.K. was pumping out twice the cash cardholders requested last week. Apparently a bank employee stocked the 10-pound bill slot with 20-pound bills. The error was discovered Friday by an honest customer who reported the problem. Meanwhile the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that last week’s MAC network glitch affected some 10,000 customers who were charged or credited three times for each withdrawal or deposit. MAC cardholders at 80 financial institutions along the East Coast were affected.