Euro Travellers Cheques

Thomas Cook has launched the first travellers cheque in the new euro currency — the closest form of euro cash to be available before January 2002.

The cheque, which is available to buy worldwide 1 January 1999, will enable holidaymakers to get used to transacting in the Euro currency before the notes and coins are introduced, which is not until January 2002 in the first participating countries.

John Hempsey, managing director, financial Services, The Thomas Cook Group, said: “Euro travellers cheques are an excellent way for people to start getting used to the new single currency. And, as with all foreign currency travellers cheques, including the new Euro travellers cheque, holidaymakers know in advance exactly how much foreign money they have to spend. They are therefore guarded against fluctuating exchange rates whilst abroad, and they don’t need to waste valuable holiday time shopping around for the best exchange rates.”

This cheque will bring the number of currency travellers cheques Thomas Cook offers to 13 and will be available to buy through numerous Financial Institutions, travel shops, and bureaux de change across the globe. A key advantage of Thomas Cook’s travellers cheques is that they offer security, as they can be quickly replaced, usually within 24 hours, if they are lost or stolen, backed by Thomas Cook’s 24 hour-a-day, 365 day-a-year global refund service.

The new Euro travellers cheques will be accepted globally, but holidaymakers will find them particularly useful in the 11 countries which are set to enter EMU in January next year. This includes seven countries for which Thomas Cook does not currently provide currency cheques – namely Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal – as well as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. The currencies of all these countries will be fixed against the Euro from 1 January next year.


VISA’s Holiday Secret

EMC Corp. said Tuesday that VISA International has implemented EMC ‘TimeFinder’ software and EMC ‘Symmetrix Enterprise Storage’ systems to dramatically reduce the time needed for testing its transaction processing systems. VISA conducts its annual ‘Stress Test’ to validate that the VisaNet Integrated Payment System is ready to support the expected Christmas holiday volumes of credit and debit authorizations. Using EMC software and systems, VISA reduced the time required to back up and restore its more than two terabyte testing database from 10 hours to 15 minutes. Using TimeFinder, VISA determined that its systems can handle performance levels in excess of 5,000 transactions per second. VISA reported last week that its ‘VISANet’ system sustained more than 3,000 transactions per second for nearly fourteen continuous hours on Dec.14.


NDC Record

A record of more than 650 transactions per second was set Monday by National Data Corporation on its Atlanta network complex. HOLIDAY  NOTICE: CardFlash will not be published Thur 12/24 and Fri 12/25. CardFlash also will not be published Mon 12/28, Tue 12/29, Thur 12/31 and Fri Jan.1 due to the Christmas-New Years holiday. Therefore, during the holiday break, CardFlash will be published on Wed 12/30 only.


Signature Service

Montgomery Ward’s The Signature Group formed a strategic alliance with San Francisco-based Consumer Car Club yesterday. The Consumer Car Club is preparing to launch an Internet fee-based membership club for auto owners early next year. Signature says the alliance will enhance its current auto club products and services provided for Amoco, Mobil and Montgomery Wards Auto Clubs. Consumers Car Club was established in 1987 as a discount auto buying service and provides services to more than 15 million consumers through members of affinity organizations including CUNA.


NYCE  Magic

The largest electronic payments companies in the Northeast and Midwest, NYCE Corp. and Magic Line, Inc., announced Monday they have signed a definitive agreement to merge. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. A branding strategy analysis is planned to begin shortly after the companies are combined, however both firms indicated yesterday they will operate under one brand.  The Board of Directors for the combined company will be comprised of the 12 principal owners with 4 additional seats for regional representatives from the new company’s market area. Approximately 240 financial institutions are expected to own minority interests in the new company. NYCE CEO Dennis  Lynch will continue as President and CEO of NYCE, and Woodcliff Lake, NJ will be its corporate headquarters. John Bascom will serve as an EVP of the combined organization, and President of its Midwest Regional Business Unit, headquartered in Dearborn, MI.

NYCE + MAGIC LINE  SNAPSHOT  (stats as of 11/30/98)

Institutions 2,370 1,315 1,055
Cardholders 47M          31.1M       15.9M
ATMs 31,125         19,825      11,300
POS Locations 179,000 156,000 79,000
Terminals Driven        3,415          2,115        1,300
ATM Mo. Tx              31.2M         24.9M         6.3M
POS Mo. Tx              16.4M         13.3M         3.1M
Proc.Srvcs Mo. Tx      16.2M         11.3M         4.9M
Total Mo. Trans.        63.8M         49.5M        14.3M
Source: NYCE/Magic Line    M-millions; Mo.-monthly; tx-transactions;


T-9 Smart Cards

CO-based Cardxx, Inc. announced it has completed the initial phase of production of ‘System T-9’ smart cards for Westinghouse Security Electronics. The ‘System T-9’ is a new core technology that is a superior alternative to the lamination process for the production of contactless, contacted smart cards and intelligent tags. The system uses a proprietary low pressure, room temperature process that encapsulates an integrated circuit and/or an antenna while the card is being formed. The ‘System T-9’ is currently producing 9,000 contactless cards per hour.


DataCard 500

DataCard Corp. Monday introduced a new series of systems designed to fit the needs of mid-volume card issuers. The new ‘DataCard 500 Series’ will include two models. The ‘DataCard 503 System’ can be configured with a PC-based software controller and a choice of three card personalization features. The ‘DataCard 504 System’ can be configured with the controller and four card personalization features.


Mall Sales Off

Sales at mall specialty stores decreased 0.7% during the third full week of the holiday shopping season, compared with the same period last year, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported yesterday. The group says this has been an unusual shopping season. Despite positive economic indicators, it appears the unseasonably warm weather as well as dramatic domestic and international political events have distracted shoppers.


Sunoco Contract

Concord EFS confirmed Monday that Sunoco has signed a five-year exclusive agreement with Concord’s EFS National Bank, for credit settlement processing for its more than 3,800 locations throughout the Northeast and Midwest. The agreement will become effective in the third quarter 1999. Sunoco also elected to continue with EPS’ BUYPASS as its switch processor for debit and credit, signing a five-year agreement. The agreement is effectively an extension of Sunoco’s nearly ten-year association with BUYPASS. One month ago Concord and Electronic Payment Services announced a merger. The companies said yesterday that these two contracts are an indication of the synergies Concord and BUYPASS expect to offer current and future clients through this merger.