Branded

The first annual ‘Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Awards’  were presented yesterday to corporations in 14 major product and service areas. Brand Keys, Inc. says in the credit card category the Discover Card achieved the highest level of success in anticipating and exceeding customer expectations. Among other winners was First Union in the category of retail banks. Brand Keys interviewed about 6,500 people nationwide. Respondents were probed to determine the strength of their emotional bond with the brands they use in each of the categories. Each brand was rated against the customer ideal in its respective category.

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ICL Snags NatWest

ICL, the IT systems and services company, has been awarded a three year helpdesk contract to support NatWest On-Line, the new PC banking service from NatWest, launched yesterday.

ICL will provide a technical support helpdesk to personal and small business customers in the UK, offering advice and guidance on all areas of technical use of their PCs and modems relating to the PC banking service. After a successful pilot with NatWest, ICL has established a dedicated call centre team based in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Technical support is available from 7am to l1pm daily and as part of the trial, currently receives around 1,500 calls per month, with 6,000 calls expected monthly by September 1999. Callers with technical queries contact the ICL helpdesk via NatWest’s general customer helpdesk, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

NatWest On-Line allows users to conduct all banking activities from home, such as transfers between accounts, setting up bill payments, ordering statements and cheque books and downloading Information on to financial management software.

Ian Andrews, NatWest’s Head of On-Line Delivery,

said: “Our customers have busy lives, high expectations and increasingly sophisticated demands. We have introduced NatWest On-Line in response to market demand for PC banking, and believe that introducing this service will provide On- Line customers with greater convenience, choice and accessibility to services.

“The support ICL provides will be a vital element behind the success of our new service. We selected ICL as we are confident that they have the expertise to provide the strong support needed, as well as the flexibility to grow with us as our PC banking service develops.”

Peter Hutchinson, managing director of ICL’s System Service business, said: “The number of online users of banking services in the UK now stands at around 200,000, having almost trebled over the last two years. As this figure grows, we’ll see a greater need for our technical help, for banking customers wanting to maximise their use of services such as NatWest’s new PC banking service.

“ICL’s long-standing experience as a help desk service provider in the financial services sector means that our agents understand the differing needs of NatWest’s customers.”

ICL will give technical advice for queries such as connection to the PC banking service ongoing connection issues and modem problems, and downloading banking information into financial packages on the customers’ PC, such as Microsoft Money, Intuit’s Quicken, Sage Instant Accounting and spreadsheets such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel. NatWest’s PC banking service is available to customers with Windows 95 (or later versions) or Windows NT4 operating systems.

ICL

ICL is a leading supplier of IT systems and services. Operating in over 70 countries and employing over 19,000 people, the Group’s revenues for 1997 were GBP 2,477.1 million generating a pre-tax profit of GBP 30.0 million. The company implements IT systems for major projects and provides innovative services to a range of industries covering amongst others, retail, finance, travel, telecoms and utilities together with education, local and central government sectors. Its services include outsourcing, helpdesks, network services, inter/intranets, electronic commerce, interactive kiosks, smart card systems, digital cities and web sites. ICL plans to relist on the stock market in 2000.

ICL’s websites:

NatWest

NatWest Group is one of the UK’s leading banks. It is the UK’s premier business bank, one of the most innovative personal banks, a major provider of wealth management products to personal and corporate customers, a key provider of card products and services and a leading participant in the world of electronic commerce. As at 30 June 1998, it had total assets of GBP 190 billion ($323 billion).

NatWest’s Website can be found at

Customers can register for NatWest On-Line by calling 0800 28 1 292, Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 6pm.

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SKYTOUCH

American Mobile Satellite introduced yesterday the ‘SKYTOUCH’  credit card satellite payphone, the only certified public payphone product for use with American Mobile’s ‘SKYCELL’ satellite telephone service.  ‘SKYTOUCH’ payphones provide telecommunications services for remote or mobile operations, such as remote lodges, park and recreation areas, heavy construction, mining, transportation, geophysical and petroleum exploration, and cruise ships. The payphones honor VISA, MasterCard, American Express and ‘SKYMINUTES’ satellite debit cards. ClaraCom Inc.’s Satellite Payphone Network is responsible for credit card validation, rating calls, completing calls to intended destination and processing daily transactions.

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SWITCH Card

Paymentech has added the United Kingdom’s ‘SWITCH’ card to its international payment processing capabilities. ‘SWITCH’, a private label debit card, is the most frequently used debit card in the UK. As a nationally issued debit card, ‘SWITCH’ is the first card of its kind to be added to Paymentech’s menu of international payment options. Paymentech currently processes MasterCard, VISA and American Express transactions in British Pounds sterling, Canadian dollars, Dutch guilders, French francs, German marks and Irish punts. International electronic payments enable non-face-to-face merchants to maintain the transaction in a local currency. Multinational retailers can price products, bill consumers and be paid in multiple currencies.

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NaCCA Preferred Card

The National Check Cashers Association and Citicorp Services Inc. officially rolled-out the NaCCA ‘Preferred Card Program’ yesterday. The new debit card for the unbanked will be offered through Citibank Delaware. Through the NaCCA ‘Preferred Card Program’, individuals can sign up to have their Federal benefit payments and/or payroll deposits directly deposited into a special ‘NaCCA Preferred Card’ account at Citibank for a fee ranging from $3 to $6 per month. These customers will be issued a ‘NaCCA Preferred Card’, along with a four-digit PIN, which will enable them to use the debit card to access their cash at Citibank, Honor and Cirrus ATMs and make purchases at participating NaCCA stores and retailers. NaCCA expects to enroll over 100,000 customers in the program during its first year. NaCCA is an organization that represents 3,500 of the estimated 5,500 to 6,000 check cashing outlets nationwide.

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International RoundUp

The second co-branded debit card in Eastern Europe, using the Cirrus/Maestro debit card system as its base, will roll out this morning. The Latvian unit of Norwegian Statoil will announce the new debit card program with Unibanka today. Unibanka already issues co-branded debit cards for Lattelekom, a Finnish telecom monopoly. Statoil has more than 73 service stations in the Baltic states.

Chase Manhattan has withdrawn from the credit card market in Mexico following the sale last week of its credit card portfolio in Mexico to Banorte. Reportedly the sale price was 70 million pesos. Chase indicated Friday it is focusing on its corporate banking services in Mexico.

Japan’s Oki Electric Industry Co. has launched a marketing campaign for its new multipurpose ATM that can be used for electronic-commerce transactions. The new ‘CP 21’ is designed to go beyond typical banking services to settle smart cards, debit cards or e-commerce transactions.

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Fast Food – Fast Cards

Having it your way at the Burger King restaurant in lower Manhattan now means you can pay by credit card, thanks to Bell Atlantic Mobile’s AirBridge wireless data service and U.S. Wireless Data’s Wireless Express Payment Service.

Tim Pham, owner of the Burger King franchise at 273 Canal Street, says his customers appreciate the speed and convenience of buying by credit card and he’s ringing up higher sales to prove it.

“My customers include a great many tourists who don’t like to carry cash in the city,” said Pham, who installed the new system some six months ago. “Many customers who wanted to place large orders would walk away before I began accepting credit card payments. Now, they’re ordering more and getting the fast service they appreciate.”

The service that makes such speedy and secure transactions possible is the result of a joint marketing agreement between Bell Atlantic Mobile and U.S. Wireless Data announced in March 1998. Bell Atlantic Mobile representatives are working with U.S. Wireless Data to distribute U.S. Wireless Data’s proprietary Wireless Express Payment Service for the retail market. The system uses Bell Atlantic Mobile’s AirBridge wireless data network.

“For merchants who currently own and operate wired dial-up terminals, and those who may not currently accept credit card payments, the wireless terminals provide a faster cheaper way to transact business, ” said Bill Davidson, Bell Atlantic Mobile’s vice president – wireless data sales marketing. “The wireless transaction using Bell Atlantic Mobile’s wireless data network takes 3 to 5 seconds vs. 11 to 20 seconds with a dial-up service.

“Going wireless means the merchant no longer needs a dedicated or shared telephone line to carry transaction traffic, thereby eliminating delays, busy signals and the cost to install or pay for monthly telephone service. And because it’s wireless, the merchant can transact business anywhere the customer wishes to buy, instead of being confined to a service counter with a telephone line,” Davidson said.

Bell Atlantic Mobile owns and operates the largest wireless network in the East, covering 116,000 square miles, and the largest chain of retail outlets devoted exclusively to wireless voice, data and paging.  Based in Bedminster, NJ, Bell Atlantic Mobile has 5.9 million customers and 7,500 employees from Maine to Georgia and, through a separate subsidiary, in the Southwest. Through its “Wireless at Work” community service program, the company uses its technology to help individuals and communities improve security and emergency communications.  Bell Atlantic Mobile’s parent is one of the world’s largest wireless communications companies, with domestic operations in 25 states and international investments in Mexico, Europe and the Pacific Rim.  For more information on Bell Atlantic Mobile visit:  ; on global operations visit:  .

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MasterCard Promos

MasterCard International appointed Willie Fung to SVP and GM for Greater China. Fung will oversee MasterCard’s businesses in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. He previously managed MasterCard Taiwan. MasterCard also announced last week that J. Sonny Sannon has been appointed to SVP and GM for the South East and South Asia Regions for MasterCard Asia/Pacific. Sannon was responsible for introducing Maestro, ATM sharing and co-branded credit cards to South Asia.

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BASIC Smart Cards

ZeitControl cardsystems, developer of the world’s first smart card that can be programmed in BASIC, will be expanding its innovative product line in 1999 to meet competitive challenges in the chip card marketplace.  Microsoft Corp., for example, recently announced plans to develop a BASIC programmable smart card for its Windows operating system.  However information on delivery dates and card costs is scant at this point.

According to Wolfgang Salge, managing director for ZeitControl, his company’s unique BasicCard is not only available now, but offers a highly cost-effective smart card application development solution for non-experts in the field.  “Using our proven platform, BASIC programmers can custom design their own smart card in a single afternoon, with no previous experience required,” Salge explains.  “The entire development cycle of writing code, downloading and testing takes hours instead of weeks.”

Salge additionally points out the most important difference between ZeitControl’s BasicCard and a Java or MultOS card: the price.  These two programming alternatives require larger chips to operate, therefore increasing the card’s ultimate price tag.  Java and MultOS cards currently run between $10 and $15 per unit, compared to a BasicCard which costs $2 to $5.

The BasicCard is available in two versions:  the Compact BasicCard and the Enhanced BasicCard.  Both versions contain 256 bytes of RAM, plus user- programmable EEPROM: 1 kilobyte in the Compact BasicCard, and 8 kilobytes in the Enhanced BasicCard.  The EEPROM contains the user’s ZC-Basic code, compiled into a virtual machine language known as P-Code (the Java programming language uses the same technology).  In order to create P-Code and download it to the BasicCard, a user needs ZeitControl’s support software.  This development tool is free of charge and can be downloaded at any time from the company’s Internet page.

ZeitControl, in partnership with Philips Semiconductor, is now developing a Mifare Pro BasicCard (contact and contactless in one chip).  The first sample cards are expected to become available by the middle of this year. Future products in their early planning stages include an RSA-based Public- Key BasicCard as well as a Multi-Application BasicCard.

ZeitControl cardsystems GmbH, headquartered in Minden, Germany, is a pioneer in the development of BASIC-programmable smart cards.  Founded in 1990, the company has delivered more than 5 million cards to customers around the world.  For more information on ZeitControl and its BasicCard, visit the company’s Web Site at [www.basiccard.com][1] or [www.zeitcontrol.de][2]

[1]: http://www.basiccard.com
[2]: http://www.zeitcontrol.de

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Contraction ?

American consumers cut $700 million off revolving credit card debt during November according to preliminary figures released Friday afternoon by the Federal Reserve. For November 1997 revolving credit card debt grew at annual rate of 2.6% versus this year’s -1.5% annual rate. Over the past twelve months revolving credit has grown a paltry 4.9%, from $530.3 billion to $556.4 billion. For November, automobile rose sharply, growing at an annual rate of 12%. Overall consumer credit is growing 3.6% annually according to the FRB. At the end of November, American consumers were $1.301 trillion in debt, exclusive of home mortgages.

                    REVOLVING CREDIT HISTORICAL
                Nov 98   Oct98   Sep98  Aug98  Jul98                  
%GRWTH:          9.2   -1.4     5.4    9.1    5.1
$OWED:         $556.4   557.1   552.5  548.7 543.6  

                 Jun98   May98  Apr98  Mar98  Feb98
%GRWTH:      -1.5%  10.1     8.1   11.3   -3.8
                 545.3   541.2   541.8  539.4  535.3    

Source: Federal Reserve; revised figures as of 01/08/99; also note the FRB incorporated new seasonal adjustment factors for January 1993 onward; for complete historical data visit [www.carddata.com][1].

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

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Pre-Paid.Com

Portland, OR-based Carrier Services, Inc. has launched prepaid.com to sell prepaid phone cards online. Doing business under the brand name 1-800-PRE-PAID, CSI currently provides value-added prepaid programs for partners such as Diners Club International, United Airlines, American Airlines, and the American Automobile Association. The company offers customized prepaid phone card programs that combine long distance service with awards such as frequent flyer miles or rewards points.

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