Senate Panel to Interrogate Card Leaders

A Senate subcommittee this morning is opening its first hearing on credit card practices. Led by Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the panel is threatening to outlaw what is calls “abusive” pricing. The “Credit Card Practices: Fees, Interest Rates, and Grace Periods” hearing will draw, in part, from a September 2006 GAO report detailing the finance charges, fees, and disclosure practices associated with 28 popular credit cards. Scheduled to testify this morning: Bruce Hammonds, President, Bank of America Card Services; Richard Srednicki, CEO, Chase; Vikram Atal, Chairman & CEO, Citi Cards; and Alys Cohen, Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center. Levin has indicated plans to hold several hearings to explore credit card practices by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

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AccountNow Cards Best for Underbanked

CA-based AccountNow was honored as a finalist in the category of Best Unbanked and Underserved Program as part of the Prepaid Card Awards at the 2007 Prepaid Card Expo. AccountNow’s VISA-and MasterCard-branded prepaid cards provide millions of consumers who do not have traditional banking or checking accounts additional choices for making purchases and paying bills with the convenience and safety of FDIC deposit insurance, electronic payments, financial education and an innovative tool to help building a new credit history. The cards are issued by MetaBank and Palm Desert National Bank. Prepaid Media provides a host of business-to-business media and information services to the rapidly growing network branded prepaid and stored value card industry. AccountNow is a leading provider of financial solutions for the 40 million US consumers who do not have established credit or traditional banking relationships.

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eCommerce Specialist Lands Gumbinger

Assurz has appointed payment industry veteran Gregg Gumbinger, previously with Authorize.Net and First Data Merchant Services, to serve as VP of Business Development. Gumbinger has over 25 years of experience in the bankcard payment and eCommerce industries. He has also held marketing and business development positions at Visa USA, MCI, ClearCommerce, HomeAccount and the original Pay By Touch company. Assurz provides a “100% Satisfaction Guarantee” to consumers who shop online, enabling shoppers to evaluate their purchases for an extended 90-day period and, if dissatisfied, receive full reimbursement of their purchase as well as prepaid return shipping directly from Assurz.

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Consumer Groups Want New Card Laws

National consumer groups banded together today to jump on the Levin hearing, the January Dodd hearing and the 2006 GAO report calling for legislation to change credit card lending practices. Consumer Federation, Consumers Union, Consumer Action, USPIRG, and National Consumer Law Center joined in the call for Congress to act. The groups want laws that would: require sound underwriting principles; restrict lending to youth without conditions; ban retroactive rate increases; ban universal default in all its forms; require credit card companies to accept the postmarked date as proof of on-time payments; end roll-over or repeat late and over-limit fees; and relate fees to cost. The consumer groups also want the 1983 disclosure law updated, “Truth In Lending Act” penalties toughened and an end to mandatory arbitration.

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TSYS Renews Sage Payment Solutions Contract

TSYS Acquiring Solutions has renewed its merchant-processing service agreement with Sage Payment Solutions. Sage Payment Solutions (formerly Verus Card Services) is a provider of payment-processing services to small- and mid-sized merchants. In 2006, services were provided to more than 100,000 businesses for a combined purchase volume of about $10 billion. TSYS Acquiring Solutions is a supplier of acquiring solutions, related systems and integrated support services to the acquiring industry and its customers. Sage Payment Solutions provides a wide range of merchant services including merchant accounts, equipment, processing solutions for retail, MO/TO and Internet businesses and customer loyalty cards.

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VOCALINK

Payments and clearing network Voca is merging with the operator of the Link cash machine network. The new firm, to be called VocaLink, will support the “Faster Payments” initiative and compete in the “Single Euro Payments Area.” Voca (f/k/a Bacs) processes 15% of Europe’s automated payment volume, while Link operates more than 60,000 cash machines across the UK. The new company will create a European payments
processor that will handle over eight billion transactions a year.
Under the terms of the proposed merger VocaLink will be managed through a new board including independent non-executives, but the business will be headed by current Voca chief executive Marion King, while Peter Presland, Link’s current chairman, will assume the role of non-executive chairman.

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eFunds Migrates to the EFD Brand

AZ-based eFunds has launched its new global corporate brand. Now known simply as EFD, it will transition to the new name, which is also its stock ticker symbol, over the next 18-24 months. The company has more than 35 years of enterprise payments and data & decisioning expertise. Its brands include: EFD ChexSystems; EFD DebitBureau; EFD DataNavigator; EFD CONNEX; and EFD Prepaid Solutions.

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ClickandBuy to Offer P2P Payments for Europe

ClickandBuy will offer a secure person-to-person payment system on the
European market. The company, an ePayment service for digital content,
can deliver over 40 payment types enabling merchants to increase income
and gain access to new markets. Merchants use the service for its hosted
commerce system and ability to provide different types of payment
methods. ClickandBuy ensures secure transactions and multi-currency
capabilities. Over eight million consumers and more than 7,000 online
merchants worldwide are successfully using ClickandBuy worldwide.

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Benny Card Recognized as Most Innovative

CT-based Evolution Benefits was awarded for “Most Innovative CDHC Product or Solution–Payment Card” at the Consumer-Driven Health Care Expo. Prepaid Media, producers of the CDHC Expo, hosted its first annual CDHC Awards during the 2007 Expo, recognizing noteworthy professionals, organizations and programs throughout the consumer-driven health care industry. Evolution Benefits is the provider of the “Benny Prepaid Benefits Card” that applies advanced payment and auto-substantiation technologies to FSAs, HSAs, and HRAs and powers the card programs of more than 140 managed care and administrative services organizations, covering more than 4,100 employers.

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CU Acquisition Campaign Produces Response

TNB Card Services says its “Fall Acquisition Promotion” for credit unions produced strong results for three Texas credit unions. Abilene Teachers FCU reported a 1.54% response rate, pushing its total number of cardholders beyond 3,700. Bashas’ Associates FCU of Tempe generated a 2.39% response rate from the promotion. AMOCO FCU of Texas generated a 1.44% open rate. TNB manages more than 1.6 million cards.

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BofA Launches Emergency Relief Card Line

Bank of America is rolling-out a line of prepaid VISA card products to assist corporations and government agencies to prepare for catastrophic events. The new “Emergency Relief Cards” can be customized to employ merchant code restrictions, cash withdrawals permission/limits and what dollar amount is to be preloaded on the cards. BofA says a new version of the card will be available this summer, allowing clients to pre-order unfunded cards that can be activated and loaded with funds based upon a pre-determined contingency plan. Under this system, intended recipient names and pre-authorized amounts will be kept on file with the bank to be activated if and when needed. This information will be updated monthly by the client. BofA can also activate the cards if the client is unable. BofA provided 200,000 prepaid cards to the Salvation Army following Hurricane Katrina.

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