Retailers Project a Meager Holiday Season

Total holiday retail sales are expected to increase this year by a very sluggish 2.2% due to a lack of consumer confidence in the U.S. economy. Over the past ten years holiday sales rose an average of 4.4% per year, making 2008 the weakest period since 2002, when holiday sales rose 1.3%. The National Retail Federation forecasts that sales will rise $470.4 billion for 2008, compared to $460.2 billion last year. Consumers are also trading down, boosting the sales of big discounters. The NRF defines “holiday sales” as retail industry sales in the months of November and December. Retail industry sales include most traditional
retail categories including discounters, department stores, grocery
stores, and specialty stores, and exclude sales at automotive dealers,
gas stations, and restaurants. The NRF represents more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments.

HOLIDAY RETAIL SALES
2000: $352.2 billion
2001: $364.1 billion
2002: $368.8 billion
2003: $387.2 billion
2004: $410.5 billion
2005: $435.6 billion
2006: $447.4 billion
2007: $460.2 billion
2008: $470.4 billion
Source: National Retail Federation

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CONTACTLESS AWARD

INSIDE Contactless has been recognized with the “2008 Frost & Sullivan
North American Contactless Smart Cards Growth Excellence of the Year
Award”, in recognition of its role as a leader in shaping contactless
payment technology in the smart card industry. Frost & Sullivan credits
INSIDE as one of the first companies to have
designed a multi-application platform for contactless payment functions.
The research and growth consulting firm recognized that such an early
move propelled the company into a position of excellence in terms of
technology innovation, enhanced its understanding of the market, and
helped it gather valuable experience to stay ahead of competition. Frost
& Sullivan also attributed INSIDE’s exponential sales growth primarily
to its low-power, flexible MicroPass intelligent payment platform, which
is designed specifically to support the contactless bank card market
with extension into transit fare collection, access, control, and retail
loyalty applications.

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Visa to Promote Unembossed Cards in the USA

Visa says it is changing its “Operating Regulations” to permit the
issuance of instantly-issued unembossed cards in the U.S. market. The
decision follows pilots with Commerce Bancshares, TD Banknorth and
United Heritage CU and will involve Visa consumer debit, business debit
and consumer credit cards. Visa has permitted unembossed prepaid cards
in the U.S. since 2005. Unembossed payment cards feature printed
personalized information, such as the account number and cardholder
name, rather than embossed with raised lettering currently found on most
U.S credit and debit products. Visa says the new policy will drive
activation, usage and loyalty while reducing costs. Visa unembossed
cards are accepted by most Visa merchants, with the exception of those
who require a manual imprint at the point of sale such as with an
old-style “zip-zap” machine, and can be used for purchases made online,
by mail or by phone.

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GE MONEY & SHINSEI BANK

GE Money has concluded the Y580 billion (US$5.4 billion) sale of its Japanese
consumer finance business to Shinsei Bank, a leading diversified
Japanese bank. However, GE Money will continue to pursue growth opportunities in Japan via GE
Nissen Credit Co. Ltd, its credit card joint venture with Nissen, a
leading shopping catalogue. GE’s Commercial Finance business has a
strong presence in Japan, including leasing, fleet services, healthcare
finance, and commercial real estate.

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Heartland Payment Makes the InformationWeek 500

Heartland Payment Systems was named to the The InformationWeek 500 for a
second year. InformationWeek recognized Heartland for its pioneering IT
strategies,including its next-weekday-morning funding technology.
Heartland’s
platform expedites deposits and funds merchants for their credit and
debit card sales overnight so when businesses open the next weekday
morning, the previous day’s sales are readily available. The same
technology that powers next-day funding delivers efficient,
cost-effective, secure payments processing to Heartland’s clients.
InformationWeek tracks the technology, strategies, investments and
administrative practices of America’s best-known companies.
InformationWeek 500 is unique among corporate rankings because it
spotlights the power of innovation in information technology, rather
than simply identifying the biggest IT spenders.

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ABA Takes on H.R. 5244 via a New Web Site

The intense lobbying for new credit card laws has prompted the American Bankers Association to launch another web site. The new cardpolicyinfo.com provides detailed information on the negative impact of “The Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights” (H.R. 5244) and the ABA’s comments on credit card regulations recently proposed by the Federal Reserve, Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Union Administration. The new website also features educational pieces such as “A Pocket Guide to the Credit Card Industry,” fact sheets on risk-based pricing, payment allocation, and interest rates; and an economic impact study conducted by economist Jonathan Orszag which analyzes the negative impact of legislation on the highly competitive credit card industry.
The new Web site compliments the ABA’s getsmartaboutcredit.com.

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MyECheck Inks Urgent Care Billing & Collections

Alternative payment provider MyECheck has signed Urgent Care Billing &
Collections of America as a client to provide electronic check
processing services. This agreement allows UCBCA customers to use their
checking accounts as an additional form of online payment. MyECheck’s
patented software can debit every U.S. checking account, even accounts
that ACH cannot debit; thus providing online merchants financial access
to more consumers and
businesses than any other payment method. UCBCA handles billing for
doctors’ offices, hospitals and medical
clinics. Some of their services include electronic billing, collections
and payroll & accounts payable services.

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Turkey Offers a Full-Featured PayPass MC

Turkey’s Garanti Bank has teamed with Gemalto to launch an advanced MasterCard featuring contactless payments, a loyalty program and e-ticketing on a single chip. The new “Bonus TRINK MasterCard” also offers in-house personalization via the Dexxis Central Issuance solution. About 300,000 cards are expected to be issued. The high-end dual-interface “Optelio Contactless” card hosts both the EMV and contactless payment functionalities on the same microprocessor. It is fully compatible with Garanti Bank’s infrastructure. This card is able to process an EMV contactless transaction in less than 500 milliseconds. The Gemalto card features a wide range of value added applications comprising traditional EMV and contactless payment, Garanti Bank’s “Bonus” loyalty scheme and the “Mifare” capability that enables e-ticketing. It allows Garanti Bank customers to make contactless payment at 4,000 acceptance points and in some 20 retailer chains.

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MediaNet Group Lands a Payroll Card Deal

Affinity program provider MediaNet Group Technologies has been selected
to build a private branded web mall for PaycardUSA, a provider of
payroll cards.BSP will develop a private branded web mall for PaycardUSA
to extend to
its card holder base as a value-added benefit that will be layered on to
the Company’s payroll cards. PaycardUSA saves employees from having to
pay significant fees associated with cashing a payroll check at a
location other than a bank. The new mall will offer PaycardUSA card
holders an opportunity to
shop online at over 750 national merchants, earning cash value reward
rebates. Of particular interest is the fact that the rewards can be
loaded onto their PaycardUSA Prepaid MasterCard and used back in the mall
or wherever MasterCard debit cards are accepted. The card is a Prepaid
MasterCard, issued by Palm Desert National Bank and
requires no credit application or checking account.

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Starwood Launches a Major Loyalty Program Promo

The Starwood Hotel group has rolled out the “SPG You Choose” promotion,
allowing Starwood Preferred Guests to choose their own rewards. “SPG
You Choose” puts travelers in control, allowing them to determine their
earning power and
choose from a dozen different reward options. Rewards are available in
four categories: “Free Nights”, “Elite Status”, “Bonus Starpoints” and “Gift
Cards”. Within each category, members can choose a specific earning
option and reward based on how often they travel and their individual
travel needs. The promotion also gives travelers several ways to earn more
Starpoints. They can earn 2,000 Starpoints after two eligible stays or
25,000 Starpoints after 10 eligible stays, with the possibility of
earning a total of 100,000 Starpoints. Starpoints can be redeemed for a
variety of awards including Free Night Awards or SPG Flights – the
recently announced redemption option that allows SPG members to redeem
Starpoints for flights on hundreds of airlines worldwide without
blackout dates.

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Germany Approves Hypercom’s medCompact Terminal

Gematik, the German healthcare organization, has approved Hypercom’s “medCompact” healthcare terminal. It is the first terminal to earn “e-Health BCS” approval which will involve more than 80 million electronic health insurance cards to be issued in Germany. Hypercom’s “medCompact” offers a large, high contrast display and embossed keys, plus it provides an intuitive and highly secure authentication system for patients and healthcare service providers. In addition to accepting patient cards, it accommodates up to eight different medical practitioner cards, making it well suited to environments where several health care professionals operate in the same location. “medCompact” is also designed to process both the current German health insurance card and the new electronic healthcare card, “eGK2.” The terminal complies with the upcoming e-Health “SICCT3” standard and can easily be connected to medical practitioner, hospital and pharmaceutical IT systems.

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