Holiday Gift Card Sales May Slip to $25B

Holiday gift card sales may dip to $25 billion this year, compared to
$35 billion in 2007. A new survey also suggests that the restaurant/fast
food category will sell more cards than any other category this holiday
season. CT-based Archstone Consulting says its survey found that
consumers will spend less on gift cards this holiday season and will
also shift their gift card spending towards household necessities such
as groceries and gas or small indulgences such as dining at
restaurants. But, teenage and post-college consumers will represent the
bulk of the increase in gift card purchases. Additionally, sales of gift
cards through outside locations, such as grocery, drug stores, banks and
kiosks are expected to grow significantly, by 30% versus 2007. Archstone
also notes that pre-paid bank cards (Visa, American Express, Master
Card, etc.) will continue to be the most desired by gift recipients this
year – as they were in 2007.

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TRINTECH & CHRYSLER

Chrysler Financial has selected Trintech Group’s
“AssureNET GL” to automate the review, approval, and status tracking of account reconciliations and manage
the accounting close process and “ReconNET” for high volume transaction
matching. “AssureNET GL” standardizes account reconciliation processes across an
organization, controls the entire close process, verifies work in remote
locations, and increases workflow efficiency. “ReconNET” automates complex
daily, monthly, and periodic processes, including daily verification of
deposits, payments, and reporting functions, to help companies mitigate
risks, reduce errors, and increase accounting controls. Trintech Group is a global provider of
integrated financial governance, transaction risk management, and
compliance solutions for commercial, financial, and healthcare markets
worldwide.

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AmEx Promotes its Global Merchant Services Exec

American Express Company has appointed Bill Glenn, currently President,
Global Merchant Services, as an Executive Officer of the Company.
Glenn, who has worldwide responsibility for the merchant network of
American Express, will join the Operating Committee which is responsible
for setting the Company’s strategic direction and policies. Global
Merchant Services is a part of the Business-to-Business segment,
led by Ed Gilligan, Vice Chairman of American Express. It is a merchant
acquirer, processor and marketing partner for the millions of merchants
around the world who accept the American Express Card. In 2007, the
combined global Billed Business volume processed by the merchant network
was $647 billion.

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EXCHANGEPLUS

Transaction processor Venture Infotek has introduced “ExchangePlus”, the
Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) technology by NeoWorth.
ExchangePlus will deliver multiple currency transactions processing on a
single credit card payment terminal. With the payment terminal equipped
with the merchant, this software will allow customers paying by Visa or
MasterCard, to pay for their goods & services in their home (billing)
currency, while the amount will be settled in the local currency ( INR )
for the merchant. ExchangePlus will give an idea about the cost of
purchase in both currencies as well as the exchange rate applied, thus
helping the customer feel informed and have control over their money in
a foreign location.

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Debt Counseling Grows Among the Middle Class

New information from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater
Atlanta has revealed some startling statistics on newcomers to debt
counseling. For example, consumers seeking counseling in August had an
average annual household income of $49,308, far above historic levels.
The income data is based on counseling sessions with 5,549 individuals
in August who reported an average monthly income of $4,109, which is
nearly 18% higher than the monthly income of people who sought credit
counseling in August 2007. One year ago, people receiving the same kind
of counseling had monthly incomes of $3,492.

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DIY VOLUME

Trade body APACS commissioned a survey that reveals more than four million
plastic card transactions occurred in DIY stores every week with May showing the
highest monthly spend with over GBP 1 billion
spent on plastic cards. Debit cards were the most popular plastic card to use in DIY stores in
terms of values and volumes, accounting for an expenditure of GBP 6.57
billion and 152.4 million transactions, with credit cards constituting a
GBP 5.3 billion spend and 76.5 million transactions. However, the average
spend on a debit card was only GBP 43.09 compared to GBP 69.36 on a credit card.

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American Express Seeks to Fund Greener Cities

American Express launches “American Express Root For Our City Challenge”
and donates $1 million to eight US cities towards tree planting projects.
The American Express Root For Our City Challenge is part of the
company’s commitment to community improvement and the environment.
Cardmembers may vote for their city with each purchase at a
participating merchant in the eight cities, which include Atlanta,
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and
Washington D.C. At the conclusion of the American Express Root For Our
City Challenge on October 31, 2008, the city with the most votes from
purchases by Cardmembers at participating merchants will receive the
largest share of the $1 million grant. The participating cities, which
each have a highly populated dense urban
landscape, have paired with a local organization with an environmental
mission that will help implement the planting projects and further
engage community involvement.

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ALEA & MOBICLEAR

Fraud protection provider mobiclear has contracted with gaming provider
Alea Network to provide security for its customers’ on-line Internet
transactions. Alea offers a full service gaming portfolio,
including poker, casino games, a betting exchange and various computer
skill games. mobiclear offers a
range of solutions to credit card and debit card fraud based on its
patent-pending Personal Identification Verification system. It also
offers products to ensure against fraud in all electronic transactions,
including telephone and Internet transactions.

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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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