WestPac Launches Pacific-Market AmEx Card

WestPac, together with American Express, has introduced an
American Express Card designed specifically for the Pacific
market, the “WestPac American Express” Credit Card.
WestPac will introduce 3 cards in 7 Pacific countries which
include a card for business clients, the consumer market and
a Gold Card for high net worth personal clients. The card will
offer 24 hour customer service, promotions, discounts and
emergency support services while traveling abroad. Also,
cardholders will be billed in local currency to avoid inconvenient
exchange rate conversion on local purchases. Customers will
have access to more than 550,000 ATMs worldwide and
access to more than 2,200 American Express Travel Services
Offices in more than 140 countries.

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Encore Capital Lands Three New Investors

San Diego-based Encore Capital Group has landed new investors J.C. Flowers, FPK Capital and Red Mountain Capital Partners and announced the departure from the Board of Raymond Fleming, Treasurer of Consolidated Press Holdings, Eric Kogan, Partner of Clarion Capital Partners, and Peter May, President and Chief Operating Officer of Triarc Companies. Encore Capital Group is a systems-driven purchaser and manager of charged-off consumer receivables portfolios. FPK Capital manages principal investments for Fox-Pitt, Kelton, a leading specialist investment bank servicing financial institutions worldwide. J.C. Flowers & Co. is a specialist private equity investor in the global financial services industry. Red Mountain Capital Partners is an investment firm based in Los Angeles that takes long-term strategic stakes in public companies.

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EMIRATES VISA INFINITE

Emirates Islamic Bank has launched a “VISA Infinite” credit card. The new card offers a much higher credit limit plus worldwide priority access to VIP airport lounges, complimentary Concierge services across the globe, special global travel, dining and retail offers, complimentary travel insurance, and complimentary purchase protection.
Emirates Islamic Bank also says the new “VISA Infinite” includes free online access facility, which enables the holder to check balances, make payments and complete transactions anytime.

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ESC Loyalty Becomes TSYS Loyalty

Enhancement Services Corporation, the loyalty services company of TSYS, announced it has re-branded the company as TSYS Loyalty. As part of the re-brand, TSYS Loyalty has transitioned from a rewards fulfillment provider to a full service loyalty and consulting partner. TSYS offers a broad range of technologies for issuing and acquiring, including support of consumer-finance, credit, debit and prepaid services. TSYS is a $31 billion financial-services company.

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SMART Orders 100,000 OTI Medical Cards

On Track Innovations(OTI)will provide Smart Applications International (SMART) with 100,000 smart payment cards. Using OTI’s “MediSmart”,
SMART’s healthcare solution, including cards and readers, has
approximately 200 device points of service across Kenya. “MediSmart”
provides health history, enables patient authentication, verification of
benefits and claims processing through contactless cards. The solution
also generates statements and invoices faster, reducing administration time and cost. OTI develops smartcard technology for a variety of markets. SMART is a Kenyan limited liability company.

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Most ID Theft Victims Informed by a Bank

A new survey shows that 62% of identity theft victims were notified of suspicious activity by a financial services company. The Identity Theft Assistance Center says nearly 10% of the consumers it talked to said they learned they were victims because they received bills that weren’t theirs. About 38% said they were notified by their financial services company. Another 23% said they were notified by another financial services company. Less than 4% said they received a call from a collection agency.

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Westpac Introduces BusinessPLUS Gold

Westpac has introduced the BusinessPLUS Gold Mastercard offering
rewards for small business through Westpac “hotpoints”. This rewards
system offers points that can be used towards business or personal
service costs, equipment costs, or redemption for air mileage with
Air New Zealand “Airpoints Dollars”. Cardholders can also manage
accounts and view their statements online through MasterCard “Smart
Data OnLine”.

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NFCC Explores Sub-Prime and Consumer Debt

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling this morning opened its “Spring Meeting” in Washington, DC focusing on issues such as housing, sub-prime mortgages, and consumer debt. Those scheduled to speak at the meeting include: John Dugan, U.S. Comptroller of the Currency; Mary McIntosh, President, Princeton Survey Research Associates International; Douglas Duncan, Chief Economist, Mortgage Bankers Association; John Taylor, President, National Community Reinvestment Coalition; Steve Grodnitzky, Internal Revenue Service and Deanne Loonin of the National Consumer Law Center. Over the next two days, leaders and policy makers will be discussing ways to reach more consumers with services and education tools aimed at improving financial literacy levels. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. NFCC members annually help two million consumers through its nearly 1,000 community-based offices nationwide.

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Maybank Unveils VISA Money Transfer Service

Maybank has announced deployment of “Maybank Visa Money Transfer”
using Visa’s money transfer service, allowing customers to send funds from
one Visa card to another regardless of global location. The customer will
normally be charged a S$5 fee, however, an introductory fee of S$1 per
transfer is the current rate. A fee of S$8 per transfer applies to
transfer of
funds to Visa cards issued in foreign countries. The Visa Transfer
service currently conducts 1,500 transactions a day within the Asia
Pacific region. More than 3.4 million Visa cards have been issued in
Singapore and more than 1.5 billion Visa cards have been issued globally.

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RSA Introduces New PCI Solution Tools

RSA has expanded its “Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Solution” portfolio. RSA also announced a new blueprint for promoting compliance by discovering data and infrastructure, assessing risk, enacting remediation and ensuring sustained controls. Additionally, RSA has formed strategic alliances with nCircle Network Security and Qualys. The new RSA “PCI Solution” offers “PCI DSS Pre-Assessment & Gap Analysis”; “Credit Card Data Discovery & Classification” professional services; and “EMC Infoscape,” an enterprise information risk management solution, which helps customers identify credit card data stored in unstructured formats, such as PDF and Excel files. EMC Infoscape discovers files in file shares and classifies them based on both content and file attributes.

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Debit Cards Emerge as Preferred Payment Device

A new study has found that more consumers prefer debit cards than any other type of payment for POS purchases. This is the first time in the study’s history that debit cards exceeded all other payment devices as the overall preferred payment product. The “PaymentDynamics 2007 Preferred Payments Study” from TransUnion and Edgar, Dunn & Company found that 29% of respondents prefer debit cards versus 26% for credit cards. This year’s study shows fewer consumers are adding payment products to their wallets and more consumers are eliminating products from their wallets than in prior years’ studies. Only 31% of respondents added a new payment device to their wallet this past year versus 56% in 2004, while 20% of consumers said they shed payment products compared to 16% in 2004. The study also showed that rewards credit cards represent 50% of all preferred credit cards with 83% of rewards card owners using their reward credit card.

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Monthly Payment Rates Begin to Spiral Downward

Monthly payment rates continued their downward spiral in March, falling below 18.50% for the first time since July 2005. The MPR, or the amount that cardholders pay on their credit card debt each month, peaked in October of last year, reaching almost 21%. The higher payment rates were driven by new minimum payment standards that took effect last year. Last week, Moody’s reported that the payment rate among credit card-backed securities fell slightly to 17.72% in February, after posting a record-setting forty-two months of consecutive year-over-year improvement. Moody’s noted that the combination of higher interest rates and a cooling off of the real estate market diminished the attractiveness of “cash out” refinancing activity in which many borrowers reduced their more expensive credit card debt by drawing on the equity in their home — either by refinancing their mortgages or by accessing their home equity lines of credit.

MONTHLY PAYMENT RATES
Apr 06: 20.01%
May 06: 19.68%
Jun 06: 19.99%
Jul 06: 20.46%
Aug 06: 20.20%
Sep 06: 20.02%
Oct 06: 20.83%
Nov 06: 20.01%
Dec 06: 19.70%
Jan 07: 19.88%
Feb 07: 18.79%
Mar 07: 18.21%
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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