Excite Certifies Thunderbeam

Thunderbeam [(http://www.thunderbeam.com)][1], the leading authority on children’s software, announced its selection as a Certified Merchant by Excite, Inc. (NASDAQ:XCIT).

Excite’s Certified Merchant Program features the Internet’s first Safe Shopping Guarantee. If a user’s credit card company determines that any fraudulent use of a user’s credit card occurs as a result of a transaction from an Excite Certified Merchant, Excite will reimburse the user for any fraud liability that the credit card company does not cover (within the card’s legal limits).

“Excite recognizes how important security is for consumers when shopping online and we are offering an unequaled guarantee to create a safe and comfortable online shopping experience,” said George Bell, president and CEO, Excite, Inc.

Thunderbeam joins a select group of about 25 online retailers selected for the Program at its launch, including Amazon.com, The Disney Store Online, J. Crew, Tower Records and Wal-Mart Online. To qualify for the Excite Certified Merchant Program, vendors must offer secure transaction technology and meet rigorous customer service requirements including email verification and the processing of orders within one business day. Excite Certified Merchants will respond to customer support inquiries within one business day of receipt and will notify customers of any stock outages within one business day of receiving an order.

“Excite’s inclusion of Thunderbeam is yet another feather in the cap for us. In less than a year since we launched, Thunderbeam has built a trusted brand identity for providing high-quality information and the world’s largest selection of children’s software products for purchase,” said Srikant Srinivasan, president and CEO of Thunderbeam. “We are excited about the Certified Merchant Program because it goes to the heart of the biggest concern that Internet shoppers have – security,” he added.

Thunderbeam offers busy consumers a smarter way to shop for kids’ software, where visitors can quickly find the right product, try it, and buy it. Thunderbeam offers a one-stop shop with in-depth information on over 2,500 software titles, member reviews, downloadable demos and secure online purchasing. Thunderbeam has strategic relationships with leading companies such as Netscape, ParentTime (from Time Warner Cable Programming and Procter & Gamble Productions, Inc.), Prodigy and CompuServe.

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

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Bank Brand Diminution

Banks who latch onto VISA or MasterCard branded smart cards face “serious damage” to their own brand names says a new report by CA-based Killen & Associates. Killen says in a few short years smart cards will become the bank in consumer’s mind thus increasing the association’s brand value at the expense of member’s brand. The study, ‘Non-Bank’s Smart Card Strategies: New Opportunities to Increase Sales and Profits’, suggests bank review the credit card experience and act quickly to preserve their own brand awareness.

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Card Processing Service for Adult Web Sites

International E-Commerce Network (IECN), LLC, a leading Internet commerce provider, today announced its new high- performance adult website hosting and electronic commerce ticketing service: Sentia.com(SM).

Through single-source hosting, payment processing and customer support services, Sentia.com provides total customized Internet solutions, giving adult entertainment merchants a convenient, reliable way to manage membership access, site subscription sales, online credit card processing, and technical and customer support. Utilizing best-of-breed technologies, Sentia.com’s integrated hosting, security and billing services help adult web merchants:

increase sales; reduce consumer fraud; assist in blocking minors from accessing adult content; ensure that consumers get the best possible service.

Sentia.com’s comprehensive solution includes: web site subscription sales, hosting, age verification, proprietary fraud detection and site filtering software, secure credit card processing, robust sales and usage reporting, and outstanding 24 x 7 technical and customer support.

To give adult entertainment companies the highest performing Internet solution, Sentia.com relies on SentiaNET(SM) an integrated service offering the fastest, most reliable multi-backbone Internet access, high-performance web servers, transaction processing software, and unprecedented network reliability. SentiaNET gives adult entertainment merchants a strategic advantage, allowing web sites to be accessed and transactions processed at new levels of speed and reliability. In fact, merchants who choose the Sentia.com solution will see a dramatic reduction in lost sales due to network congestion on the Internet.

Merchants also reap the benefits of Sentia RapidPay(SM), an Automated Clearing House service, tightly integrated with Sentia.com’s hosting and e-commerce services. Sentia RapidPay makes ticket sales payouts available to merchants — in cash transferred directly into their bank account faster and more efficiently than any other Internet provider.

By taking advantage of Sentia.com, adult entertainment merchants gain a professionally managed, high-performance web site, flawless end-to-end electronic commerce management, assistance in blocking minors from adult content, and outstanding customer service and technical support.

For more information about Sentia.com, call IECN’s Sales Office at 888-777-4332, or visit its web site at

With years of experience building and managing production grade Internet commerce systems for Fortune 500 companies, International E-Commerce Network, LLC. is a leader in the electronic commerce industry, offering world wide web site membership, payment processing and information systems management services for the adult entertainment, gaming and interactive content industries.

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Students Get Top Card Use Grades

VISA released a study yesterday showing 90% of college students consider themselves good money managers. The ‘VISA Scholars & Cents’ survey of 251 students also showed that 56% of students pay credit card balances in full each month and most reserve credit card use for high-ticket items such as travel and car expenses. The study, conducted by CT-based NFO Research between July 22 and July 27, also revealed that 67% rely on money they earn during the school year. The study’s results comes on the heels of recent press articles presenting reams of anecdotal evidence of students struggling under a mound of credit card debt.

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August Sales Sluggish

Consumers maintained a moderate spending pace in August according to data released yesterday by TeleCheck Services Inc. August retail sales are normally fueled by back-to-school purchases but it appears this seasonal activity is extended into September for 1997. TeleCheck noted 15-day UPS strike in August may have negatively affected retail inventories and sales.. TeleCheck reported a 2.5% national increase for August with the northeast and southeast posting the biggest gains of 4.3%.

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Pizza Without Real Dough

Pizza Hut, Inc. announced Wednesday it will accept bank credit cards at all 4,200 company-owned Pizza Huts in the U.S., beginning Sept. 14. The Dallas-based company has been accepting credit cards at selected locations for the past 12 months, and to date, more than 80% of Pizza Hut units are currently participating. Pizza Hut has been introducing credit cards into company stores at the rate of 105 stores per week. Approximately 85% of the 3,500 franchise locations are taking credit cards or planning to take credit cards by the end of September.

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Datacap AmEx Certified

America Express (AmEx), Datacap Systems and NXT Corporation are pleased to announce DataTran certification for direct AmEx card authorization and settlement. The NXT network allows merchants using Datacap products to process AmEx cards directly to AmEx, eliminating transaction fees associated with other AmEx card processing methods. The DataTran interface is the first payment system to utilize NXT’s AmEx interface solely for AmEx transactions. This feature is immediately available to DataTran developers.

“NXT is the new, preferred method of direct American Express card processing. We are pleased to have DataTran certified, making the NXT interface easily available to payment system developers and merchants,” announced Paul Dottle, Vice President, Electronic Merchant Services, American Express Establishment Services. “PIP is a crucial part of American Express’ POS strategy. NXT has the only non-terminal interface into the American Express terminal capture system. This interface is superior to other network access methods, and is more robust than out dial batch host. Moving forward aggressively, DataTran can make direct interface available to thousands of restaurants and retailers accepting AmEx cards today who can not get higher service levels at even more favorable rates.”

“We’re please to support this major American Express initiative, leading again by providing better service levels at lower cost to integrated payment system developers and merchants. We’ve worked with American Express and NXT for over a year and are glad to see the efforts result in benefits for everyone. Current DataTran developers and users benefit and this is another good reason for payment system developers and merchants to insist on DataTran,” stated Datacap President and CEO, Terry Zeigler.

DataTran provides simple, flexible and reliable card and check payment interfaces for any retail system or register. DataTran is a cost-effective, easily supportable payment solution for a wide variety of POS, ECT and PC payment systems.

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E-Commerce for Small Firms

Maagnum E-Commerce Services, Inc., a leading Internet commerce provider, today confirmed its commitment to the small to mid-size business community with the announcement of its new single-source commerce service, Maagnum AllCommerce(SM) [(http://www.allcommerce.com).][1]

Maagnum AllCommerce enables home offices, small businesses, professionals, and mid-size companies to affordably and easily add and integrate electronic commerce services with traditional phone order processing, warehousing, and distribution services. Just as businesses outsource payroll processing to companies such as ADP, web site owners can now outsource their entire commerce process to one company, Maagnum, for online order processing, secure credit card authorization, catalog management, warehousing, electronic and hard goods fulfillment, telephone and fax order processing.

“E-commerce is not easy,” said Cyrus Maaghul, President of Maagnum Internet Group, of which E-Commerce Services is a division. “There are many hidden technical and administrative hurdles. A lot of companies are peddling software and services to small to mid-size businesses who may not understand the complexities of managing an electronic storefront or how to integrate it with their existing businesses. We make it possible for web storefront owners to be online in a matter of hours, by simply posting a secure h.plink onto their web site. At Maagnum, we bring the old and new together in one affordable, easy to buy, and easy to understand service.”

Maaghul went on to say, “It’s significant that we’ve been helping small to mid-size companies for the past two and a half years and, during that time, electronic orders approaching a million have been processed securely over the Internet utilizing our SafeSell(SM) e-commerce service. By combining that track record with our new comprehensive, single-source commerce service, we’re taking electronic commerce to a new level of ease-of-use, integration, and affordability. The benefits of electronic commerce are now available without the hassles of selecting the right technology, integrating the parts, and managing what is becoming a very complex process.”(http://www.taunton.com) came to Magnum with a need for a secure Internet commerce site on which to market their books and magazines on fine woodworking, gardening, cooking, and sewing. Roy Swanson, Director of New Media, was “very impressed with Maagnum’s responsiveness, dependability, and commitment to quality.” Swanson felt that “their experience in electronic commerce helped us get online quickly, stay up reliably, and improve our site effectively.” More than 8,000 visitors per week go to Taunton’s site and orders exceed the company’s expectations.

Maagnum E-Commerce Services [(http://www.safesell.com)][2] provides end-to-end commerce solutions for retail, software, and direct marketing companies of any size, including online order processing, credit card authorization, catalog management, warehousing, fulfillment, telephone, and/or fax order processing service.

[1]: http://www.allcommerce.com
[2]: http://www.safesell.com

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Sierra MasterCard

Sierra On-Line, Inc. and MBNA rolled out the ‘Sierra MasterCard’ Wednesday.. Upon first use of the card for a purchase or cash advance, customers will receive their choice of one free Sierra software product from 23 top selections. Customers also receive an automatic 10% discount on all Sierra software products. Additionally, cardholders earn points based on 1% of all purchases charged to the Sierra MasterCard. After accumulating 20 points, a $20 coupon will be sent to the customer, redeemable for any Sierra software purchased through mail order. The no-annual-fee Sierra MasterCard will be available in two versions: Platinum Plus and Preferred and will offer a five-month promo rate on cash advances and balance transfers.

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Japan’s ATM War

Competition is heating up in Japan between the Posts Ministry and private sector banks over ATM service hours and fees. Japan’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications requested a 6 billion yen appropriation this morning to expand ATM service to weekends and holidays. The Posts Ministry wants to open nearly 6,000 ATMs or about 30% of its ATM network on weekends and holidays. The move may also force down ATM fees. Japan’s bank-owned ATMs currently charge 105 yen per transaction after 2pm on Saturdays and on holidays. The Posts Ministry indicated it will hold to its policy of no surcharge for the expanded convenience. Last week the Posts Ministry requested appropriations to link its ATMS with private-sector ATM networks.

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