TransitCenter to Launch a Prepaid Card

NY-based TransitCenter is adding a pre-paid card to its product suite in August in a continuing effort to replace its 20 year old paper “TransitChek Voucher.” The new “TransitChek Card” is anonymous, reloadable and permits employees to set aside up to $105 a month of their pre-tax earnings to pay for transit commuting costs and up to $205 a month for commuter parking. More than 11,000 employers and 500,000 employees, mostly in the New York City metro area, currently participate in the employer-sponsored “TransitChek” program. The Company is an independent nonprofit corporation and the only specialized provider of tax-free commuter benefits, transit information and assistance. The new card is available in a broader choice of dollar values, including $76 and $105 denominations. Employees can check their card balances through TransitCenter’s Web site and employees can transfer remaining balances from an old card to a new card. TransitCenter currently offers paper “TransitChek Vouchers,” “TransitChek MetroCards” and the “TransitChek QuickPay” debit card.

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VISA/MasterCard Credit Card Gap Narrows

The horse race between VISA and MasterCard is tightening in the U.S. credit card arena as the gap narrowed from 44 millions cards in the fourth quarter to 20 million cards in the first quarter. VISA briefly lost its lead position to MasterCard in the second half of 2002 but pulled ahead by the second quarter of 2003. However, both networks have slowed considerably as the total number of cards-in-force for each network rose by a mere one million in the 1Q/06 compared to 1Q/05. According to CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]), VISA and MasterCard had 577.8 million credit cards at the end of the first quarter compared to 575.7 million one-year ago. At year-end 2005 VISA reported 321 million credit cards which dropped to 299 million for the first quarter. MasterCard reported 277 million at year-end 2005 which increased to 279 million for 1Q/06.

Q1 U.S. Credit Cards
(cards in millions)
VISA MC
2002: 259 239
2003: 263 265
2004: 284 262
2005: 298 278
2006: 299 279
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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UK Intl Payment Card Fraud Hits 6-Year Low

Payment card fraud committed abroad on UK cards fell to $151.4 million in 2005, a six-year low. About 40% of card fraud abroad took place in three countries including the USA (14%), France (14%) and Spain (12%). APACS, the industry association representing plastic card issuers in Great Britain, says UK-issued cardholders used their cards to spend $38 billion abroad last year. APACS also released a new consumer guide about using credit and debit cards abroad offering simple advice on avoiding problems. The decline in fraud is mainly attributable to improved fraud detection systems that enable card companies to spot unusual spending patterns most often associated with the fraudulent use of cards. Foreign fraud peaked in 2001 when it hit $253 million according to this week’s issue of CardFlash International.

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Wickes Selects S1 Postilion Payment Solution

Home improvement retailer Wickes has implemented S1’s “Postilion”
payments processing solution in all Wickes stores in the UK.
Postilion processes all payments, including EMV Chip and PIN
transactions, made at 1,300 tills throughout 178 UK Wickes outlets, as
well as linking into the Certegy Transax system for check clearing.
Additionally, the solution offers automatic bank settlement file
submission without the need for end-of- day polling. In addition to
processing chip and PIN transactions, the flexible architecture of
Postilion gives Wickes the ability to process sales from other channels,
whether in-store, web-based, from kiosks, or over the telephone. S1
Corporation is a provider of customer interaction software solutions for
financial services.

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Merchant Services Network & SSA Partner

The Merchant Services Network has become a Self Storage Association “Partner” obtaining access and visibility to SSA’s 6,000 member companies. By bundling benefits, SSA sponsorship programs are a more convenient approach for vendors than the fragmented model of past years. SSA Partner sponsorships are limited to eight (8) companies; the Partner program is for a two-year period and is business category exclusive. Merchant Services Network is a full service, ISO/MSP of First National Bank of Omaha, Omaha, NE, a member bank of the Visa & MasterCard Association.

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Doha Bank Launches Dream Card Program

Doha Bank has re-launched its credit card business under the brand name
“Dream” and has launched the “Dream Rewards Program” and “Dream Card
Acquiring Service”. Through the “Dream Rewards Program”, Doha Bank
customers will earn “Dream Reward Points” for every rial spent through
their credit cards. The “Dream Points” earned by the customers can be
redeemed for purchases at the member merchant outlets apart from the
“cash-back option” and customer’s card account will be credited with the
value of points earned. Under the ‘Dream Rewards Program’, cardholders
will earn 1 point for every QR 4 spent on their card. Accumulated
points can be redeemed at the member merchant outlets and at Doha Bank.

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Western Union to Load for SouthernLINC

SouthernLINC Wireless has teamed with Western Union to permit its prepaid customers to replenish their accounts at Western Union agent locations nationwide. Western Union Agent locations include supermarkets, convenience stores, check-cashers and other locations where consumers already do business every day. SouthernLINC Wireless customers can visit www.westernunion.com or call 1-800-CALL-CASH to find the most convenient location. SouthernLINC Wireless, a Southern Company is an Atlanta-based regional wireless carrier covering the major metro and rural areas in Alabama, Georgia, southeastern Mississippi and northwest Florida.

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ADS Signs Bealls and Burke’s Outlet Stores

Dallas-based Alliance Data Systems has signed a five-year agreement to provide private label credit card services for Bealls Outlet Stores and Burke’s Outlet Stores and their 500 stores in 14 states. Under terms of the agreement, Alliance Data will provide turnkey private label credit card services including account acquisition and activation; receivables funding; card authorization; private label credit card issuance; statement generation; remittance processing; customer service functions; and marketing services.

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Debit Card Rewards Hit a Hot Button

Even though debit card rewards are less rewarding than their credit card counterparts, 57% of households are likely to use a debit card with rewards over a credit card with rewards. However, fewer than one in ten debit card users are using cards connected to a rewards program due to low availability. According to TNS’ Financial Services “Consumer Credit Card Program Study,” more than 60% of consumers prefer using a debit card over a credit card because it is more like real money. TNS also found that 65% of debit card users are paying less often with cash and checks than they used to. Indeed, the number of households using an ATM or debit card has grown from 47% to 60% over the past four years. TNS says 61% of debit card users who do have debit card rewards are age 35 or older and that household income is not a factor on debit card rewards use.

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PREPAID MAESTRO

The Austrian Airlines Group and Europay Austria have implemented the “Austrian
Prepaid Card”, which replaces previous cash payments for passenger
compensation in international aviation. Passengers can use the “Maestro”-based card 15 minutes after activation for payment or cash withdrawal worldwide. If a flight is overbooked or canceled the cash payment is replaced by the prepaid card, a plastic chip card loaded with the respective amount. A February 2005 EU Directive for passenger rights requires airlines to hold a certain cash amount at their airport
and sales offices, to be able to refund tickets or make compensation
payments in cash in case of flight irregularities or cancellations. The card can be loaded with amounts from EUR 10 to EUR 1,000 and is valid for 6 months after activation.

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FDC Inks Deals with A&P and Golden 1

First Data has executed two major deals this week including a major supermarket chain and the nation’s sixth-largest credit union. FDC recently began processing credit and debit card transactions for the 407 locations of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. The supermarket chain trades as A&P, A&P Super Foodmart, Farmer Jack, Food Basics, The Food Emporium, Sav-A-Center, Super Fresh and Waldbaum’s. A&P has annual sales volume of approximately $11 billion. FDC also renewed its agreement with Golden 1 Credit Union to provide “STAR Network” access and PIN-debit processing for its more than 280,000 cardholders and its 271 ATMs. FDC signed an additional deal with Golden 1 to provide its official check and money order processing through Integrated Payments Systems, a FDC subsidiary. There are more than 140 million cards carrying the “STAR” logo.

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Givex and Shift4 Integrate

Givex and Shift4 have completed a systems integration for gift cards and are targeting the retail and hospitality markets. In addition to Shift4’s broad credit and debit processing suite, Givex customers have access to real-time transaction processing, 24/7 support, online reporting, program administration, card marketing, card production and more. Shift4 is a developer of secure financial transaction processing software and services.

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