Average Gift Card Sales to Hit $190

A new survey shows that 54% of respondents plan to buy gift cards as gifts this holiday season. The average amount respondents plan to spend on gift cards is $190. The Maritz firm says its poll also found that on average, respondents reported using 90% of the gift cards that they received last year. Respondents who say they will give gift cards this year as holiday gifts plan to give, on average, four gift cards. Additionally, the poll found that the majority of shoppers planning to buy gift cards as holiday gifts say they will choose gift cards that can be used only for a specific retailer (88%). Among those: 87% say they will buy them at the store location; 25% say they will buy them on the store’s Web site and 12% say they will buy them somewhere else.

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TSYS Prepaid Tops 11MM Active Card Accounts

TSYS Prepaid has grown its healthcare business to more than 11 million active card accounts on file. TSYS Prepaid’s card programs offer an innovative and efficient way to manage the complicated flow of information and payments among payers, providers and patients in healthcare. The company offers an array of product features for flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and eligibility cards. TSYS Prepaid, a wholly owned subsidiary of TSYS, is a leading global provider of prepaid card services that utilize the Visa, MasterCard and ATM networks.

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GCA Selects VeriFone for Macau Gaming Industry

VeriFone has been selected by Global Cash Access, as the portable cash authorization platform, for Macau’s casinos and other locations worldwide. GCA, a leading provider of cash access products and related services to the gaming industry, has been beta testing its portable cash authorization application in Atlantic City locations using VeriFone’s Vx 610 portable powerhouse with Wi-Fi communications. Global Cash Access Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: GCA – News), directly, or through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, is a leading provider of cash access products and related services to approximately 1,060 gaming properties and other clients in the United States, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Caribbean. VeriFone Holdings, Inc. (“VeriFone”) (NYSE:PAY) is the global leader in secure electronic payment solutions.

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Stagnation and Reward Costs Hit Issuers

A new analysis shows that the credit card industry faced two major challenges to its profitability this year. One was stagnant receivables growth coupled with the rising cost of rewards programs. However, issuers have not been able to make the economics of reward programs work favorably for these cards. Booz Allen Hamilton says that for some large issuers, these costs have doubled over the past five years and represent almost 15% of net revenues. Booz Allen also says that although the card industry has always had its share of innovation, most of the innovations have given the company producing them a short-term lead at best. For example, risk-based pricing and extended credit lines, once considered innovative, are mere table stakes. In general, the cycle that has developed in the card industry is one of innovation, followed by catch-up behavior on the part of the competition, followed by a new round of innovation, then more catch-up behavior, and so on. No card company has the resources to innovate in every area, so itâ™s essential heading into 2007 that companies take stock of their positional assets and determine where they should focus.

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Gemalto Powers Garanti Bank Smart Banking Cards

Gemalto is providing Garanti Bank with Europe’s first smart banking cards featuring EMV technology, loyalty schemes and the contactless payment capability. Gemalto has been a major
supplier to Garanti Bank since 2000 and has already provided the bank with several million of its multi-application smart cards, which incorporate EMV-compliant credit functions and a loyalty program. Leveraging the success of this first deployment, Gemalto is now upgrading Garanti’s “BonusCard” with the “MasterCard PayPass” functionality to allow consumers to benefit from the speed and convenience of contactless at movie theaters, fast food restaurants and supermarkets. The loyalty program has attracted more than 1,000 brands with over 100,000 sales points as partner merchants to date. This loyalty network, together with over 5 million cardholders, makes “BonusCard” Europe’s largest multi-branded loyalty and credit card program.

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Heartland Payment Systems Tops $1 Billion

NJ-based Heartland Payment Systems will process over $1 billion of credit and debit card transactions, the first time the company has achieved this milestone since its founding ten years ago. Heartland Payment Systems delivers credit/debit card processing and payroll solutions to 140,000 small to medium-sized merchants throughout the USA. In 2005, Heartland’s processing volume was $33.7 billion.

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Holiday Shoppers Opt for Store Gift Cards

Blackhawk Network surveys says more than 80% of recipients would prefer to do their own shopping with a gift card from a favorite store. Consumer Reports cited in a recent survey that gift cards are second behind clothes as the most-desired holiday gift. Industry analysts expect gift card sales to reach $80 billion in 2006 with holiday purchases accounting for approximately 60 percent of those sales. Blackhawk Network’s Gift Card Mall carries gift cards from more than 100 different brands to appeal to shoppers of varying demographics according to Llach. Blackhawk Network, a subsidiary of Safeway Inc., is a prepaid and payments network, a market leader in card-based financial solutions and the largest provider of third-party prepaid cards.

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ESPN Total Access Rewards VISA Hits $100MM

The new “ESPN Total Access Rewards VISA” has added more than 50,000 new card accounts with balances exceeding $100 million. Washington Mutual and ESPN introduced the card in mid-September with a high-profile media event in New York City, advertising on ESPN TV, radio and ESPN.com, and a marketing direct mail campaign. The card provides traditional rewards, plus unique and attainable sports-related rewards including merchandise, access to sporting events like the Super Bowl and access to ESPN-sponsored events like the ESPY Awards and the X-Games.

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Obopay Partners with Helio’s Young Members

Obopay has partnered with Helio to offer its service to Helio members. Obopay’s comprehensive solution provides mobile customers with a real-time, secure, mobile peer-to-peer payment service, which is linked to an Obopay Prepaid MasterCard(R) account. Obopay Prepaid MasterCard cards are accepted at 24 million merchant locations and over 1.1 million ATMs around the world. Obopay is the first complete mobile payment service in the U.S. that instantly lets consumers get, send and spend money directly from their mobile phones to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

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MasterCard rePower Prepaid Load Network Debuts

MasterCard has teamed with InComm for the successful completion of the first cardholder point of sale transaction using the MasterCard “rePower Load Network.” The new service allows consumers to add money to eligible “MasterCard” or “Maestro” branded prepaid cards at participating merchant locations. InComm will begin offering the solution to the 145,000 stores that comprise its retail distribution network. The first transaction was completed at a Village Pantry, a division of Marsh Grocery, store in Indiana. The solution will be implemented across the chain of 148 Village Pantry locations in Indiana and Ohio. MasterCard and InComm are in ongoing discussions with other merchant partners to expand the offering further.

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ePayments Launches Educational Services

Denver-based ePayments has announced the launch of a new division to serve the education marketplace, specializing in school nutrition programs for grades K through 12. The ePayments lunch program check guarantee offers a 100 percent guarantee on recovering the full value of current-school-year bad checks. ePayments specializes in working with schools, non profits, governments and companies of all sizes that handle payments in the form of check and credit card transactions. Offering a complete range of merchant check and credit card payment processing and support services, ePayments helps businesses, governments, schools and non-profits who receive non-cash payment transactions to reduce their risk while increasing cash flow.

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BB&T Selects Evolution Benefits for HSA Card

BB&T has selected Evolution Benefits to provide card services for its recently announced “Health Savings Account” product. Under the new relationship, BB&T will use Evolution Benefits’ prepaid benefits card services to power the Benefit Access card. The card is issued to consumers who establish individual HSAs through BB&T’s extensive network of more than 1,450 financial centers, as well as those who sign up for BB&T HSAs through their employer. Evolution Benefits, Inc. headquartered in Avon, Connecticut, began operation in 2002. Its primary product, the Benny prepaid benefits card, applies advanced payment and pioneering electronic substantiation technologies to FSAs, HSAs, HRAs and Qualified Transportation Accounts. BB&T Corporation and its subsidiaries offer full-service commercial and retail banking and additional financial services such as insurance, investments, retail brokerage, corporate finance, payment services, international banking, leasing and trust.

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