IRS Opens Biz Tax Card Payments via OPC

The IRS is now permitting “Form 940” and “Form 941” taxes to be paid this year with general purpose payment cards via Official Payments Corp. The IRS is now for the first time accepting card payments for certain business taxes. Additionally, the IRS has determined that the convenience fee paid or incurred by a business making a tax payment with a credit card can be deducted as a business expense. Official Payments provides electronic payment services for the Internal Revenue Service, 26 states, the District of Columbia and more than 2,000 local government clients nationwide. Official Payments charges citizens a convenience fee for the service. Citizens using credit or debit cards with bonus rewards programs may, depending on their card’s program, earn reward points, airline frequent flyer miles or cash back for paying their taxes and fees.

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TouchMedia Signs on with Peppercoin

TouchMedia has selected the the Peppercoin “Small Payment Suite” to process digital transactions for its 125 retailer locations nationwide. TouchMedia’s retail based multimedia platform allows consumers to preview, discover, download and purchase hundreds of thousands of physical and digital entertainment products. With the launch of paid digital products in 2006, consumers will soon be able to purchase and download songs to their flash drives, MP3 players and other digital devices, and also burn custom CDs and DVDs. Peppercoin offers pay-as- you-go, pre-paid, post-paid billing and subscription purchase plans, provides point-of-sale and online merchants tools to maximize profitability from small payments. TouchMedia is a technology and services company focused on creating, selling and supporting cutting-edge multimedia in-store marketing, promotions and sales systems.

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65% of Consumers Seek Card Debt Reduction

For the second month in a row, the “Experian-Gallup Personal Credit Index” survey finds consumers have increased optimism regarding their overall credit situation. Now at 92, the index is up seven points from last month and 18 points from a low of 74 in November. Consistent with their expectations about reducing their debt, 65% of consumers say they are “very likely” to reduce their credit card debt in 2006. Another 19% say they are “somewhat” likely to do that. Other steps consumers are “very” or “somewhat likely” to take in 2006 include checking their credit score at one of the three major credit reporting companies (48%), cutting back on entertainment spending (45%), reading a book or taking a course on personal finances (36%) and among consumers with credit cards, cutting down on the number of credit cards they have (35%).

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Chase Renews and Expands BP Contract

BP has renewed its credit card marketing relationship with Chase including the BP co-brand card and the BP private-label card. Under the terms of the new agreement, Chase will continue to issue the BP co-brand card and will assume responsibility for the BP proprietary card. BP is of one of the world’s largest energy companies. JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a global financial services firm with assets of $1.1 trillion and operations in more than 50 countries.

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#1 Card Issuer Feels Bankruptcy Impact

J.P. Morgan Chase reported this morning that credit card profits nose-dived for the fourth quarter by 41% to $302 million as revenues decreased 7% to $3.7 billion, compared to one-year ago. However, operating earnings were impacted by a $650 million special provision for increased bankruptcies. Managed card loans of $142.3 billion were up 5% year-on-year as Chase added the $2.2 billion Sears Canada portfolio. Charge volume of $79.6 billion increased by $4.3 billion, or 6%. Net accounts opened were 12.5 million, including 9.7 million from the Sears Canada portfolio acquisition. Merchant processing volume of $153.4 billion increased by $17.5 billion, or 13% and total transactions of 4.3 billion increased by 657 million, or 18%. During the quarter, Chase announced new relationships including Overstock.com and WaWa and renewed relationships with United Airlines, Amazon.com and BP. The BP renewal included the existing co-brand relationship as well as the proprietary card program. For complete details on Chase’s fourth quarter performance, visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

JPM CHASE HISTORICAL ($billions)
4Q/04 1Q/05 2Q/05 3Q/05 4Q/05
EOP Outstandings: $135.4 133.4 137.3 137.6 142.3
Charge Volume: $ 75.3 70.3 75.6 76.4 79.6
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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

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PaySquare Begins JCB Merchant Acquiring

JCB and PaySquare will begin JCB merchant acquiring
in the Netherlands this month, to be followed by Belgium in March.
PaySquare was granted a license for merchant acquiring in the
Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg by JCB International in
September 2005. The acquiring partnership with JCB gives PaySquare a new
foothold toward expansion in Belgium and Luxembourg, in addition to the
Netherlands. PaySquare is a large merchant network in the Netherlands.
JCB is an international credit card brand and the largest card issuer
and acquirer in Japan with a merchant network of 13.2 million merchants
in 190 countries and territories and 55.99 million JCB cardmembers.

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ECHO Names a New CIO

Electronic Clearing House has hired William Wied, formerly with AZ-based TransCore LP/Roper Industries, as CIO. Wied’s background includes nearly 15 years of increasing responsibility in the areas of design, development and deployment of enterprise software solutions in a number of different industries including semiconductor, telecommunications, retail and transportation logistics. Wied has a number of publications and patents to his credit. ECHO provides payment processing solutions.

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Gift Cards Drive Full-Priced Sales

Deloitte Research says the holiday season was a positive one for retailers but consumers were smarter this year, waiting until after Christmas to do much of their shopping at discounted prices. The Deloitte monthly index shows that the slower pace reflects softening housing prices, rising tax burdens and real wages below last year’s levels. Deloitte says its research shows that gift cards are frequently used to buy full-price merchandise and that consumers often spend more than the dollar value of their gift cards. Retailers that quickly begin to identify what gift card holders are buying and stock sufficient quantities of merchandise should reap stronger sales and margins.

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TSYS Q4 Profits Rise 16% Driven by Chase

TSYS reported that fourth quarter profits rose 16% year-on-year to nearly $50 million but $1.3 million below the third quarter. Revenues for the fourth quarter increased 37% to $420.7 million, compared to 4Q/04. Accounts on file increased to 437.9 million as of December 31st, up 22% from one-year ago. TSYS also reports that stored value accounts rose 20% to 14.3 million. During the fourth quarter, TSYS expanded its global reach into China with a 34% equity interest in China UnionPay Data; extended processing relationships with Allied Irish Banks of Dublin, Ireland and Metavante of Milwaukee; executed a long-term agreement with Toronto-Dominion Bank to provide a range of processing and support services for its consumer and commercial credit-card accounts and established TSYS Managed Services by integrating contact centers and customer-servicing operations of several subsidiary companies into a single special business unit. For complete details on TSYS fourth quarter performance, visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

TSYS REVENUE HISTORICAL
4Q/04: $307.2 million
1Q/05: $350.0 million
2Q/05: $410.2 million
3Q/05: $422.0 million
4Q/05: $420.7 million
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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

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Chase Home Improvement Rewards Card Launched

Reader’s Digest Association and Chase have launched the “Chase Home Improvement Rewards” card. Cardholders earn three points for every dollar spent on home improvement purchases and one point for every dollar spent on all other card purchases. Every time cardholders accumulate 2,500 points, they can redeem them for a $25 gift card to be used at electronic stores, home improvement stores and other leading retailers. Reader’s Digest has 40 million readers in the United States. The magazine is sold in 60 countries and published in 49 editions and 20 languages around the world.

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GECF Joins the AmEx U.S. Issuing Fold

GE Consumer Finance and American Express announced a card issuing deal in the US. The first product to be offered under the new agreement will be a “Dillard’s American Express” card, with more AmEx co-brand cards expected to follow. Under the terms of the agreement, GECF will be responsible for issuing the cards, managing the customer relationships and providing customer service, billing and credit management. GECF is the seventh U.S. partner for American Express. AmEx has now established nearly 100 card-issuing partnership arrangements in close to 110 countries.

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