Biometric Performance Certification is Available

New York-based International Biometric Group has released its “Biometric Performance Certification” program, which is sponsored by VISA, Chase, Citibank, and others. Biometric Performance Certification certifies biometric product accuracy and usability for applications such as border management, visa and passport issuance, access control, network security, and point-of-sale. The certification provides detailed information to engineering teams, product developers, sales and marketing staff, and organizations managing RFPs and government tenders. International Biometric Group tests, specifies, designs, and integrates biometric technologies for ID systems, access control, network security, Internet applications and point-of-sale applications.

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BBVA Buys 100K XIRING Personal Pocket Reader

BBVA Bancomer has received the delivery of 100,000 XIRING
“Xi-Card” personal pocket readers in association with the “Vida Bancomer”
marketing program. Under the program, the cardholder inserts the “Vida
Bancomer” EMV payment card into the card-sized “Xi-Card” to view details
of cash bonuses, coupons, or loyalty points, as well as validity dates.
New programs
can be loaded onto the card though the merchant’s POS terminal and then
displayed on the “Xi-Card”, thus providing the necessary flexibility to
extend the program and support new campaigns. The “Xi-Card” reader allows
each cardholder to check the coupons, loyalty points, or cash bonuses
earned at participating merchants through use of his/her EMV payment
card. More than 10,000 points of sale are expected to participate in the
“Vida Bancomer” program by year’s end. BBVA also predicts that over two
million cards will have been converted to the new technology, complete
with the “Vida Bancomer” program. Furthermore, 2006 will see 90% of BBVA
Bancomer’s bank cards converted to EMV and “Vida Bancomer.”

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GECF to Issue the Hustler Turf Equipment Card

Kansas-based Hustler Turf Equipment has signed a deal with GE Consumer Finance’s Retail Sales Finance unit to launch a credit card in January. The new Hustler card will make financing fast and simple for contractors and consumers. In addition, the program will provide access to special financing promotions and product offers. Hustler Turf Equipment manufacturers a wide range of commercial and high-end residential lawnmowers.

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Coinstar to Open an Online Gift Card Wizard

Coinstar is opening an online wizard on December 1st to assist consumers in the selection of gift cards. The Coinstar Gift Card Wizard takes consumers through a three-question quiz that gathers information about the card recipient’s gender, relationship and age. Once the quiz is complete, the tool reveals how receptive the recipient will be to receiving a gift card, then provides the top five card choices for that individual. Coinstar is a multi-national company offering self-service coin counting, electronic payment solutions, and entertainment services.

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GECF to Acquire the $500MM Belk Portfolio

GE Consumer Finance has inked an agreement to acquire the credit card business of the nation’s largest privately owned department store company. The Belk private label credit card portfolio has 4.2 million cardholders and approximately $500 million in outstandings, including $200 million from a third-party provider. Belk operates 278 stores in 15 Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states under the names Belk, McRae’s and Proffitt’s. About 160 Belk employees will join GECF and will remain in Belk’s hometown of Charlotte, NC. The acquisition is expected to close in January. As part of the transaction, Belk and GECF will also enter into a long-term marketing and servicing alliance with an initial term of 10 years. Banc of America Securities and First Annapolis Consulting advised Belk on the transaction.

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52% of Online Households Will Use EBPP by 2010

New research shows that by 2010, approximately 47 million U.S. households will pay bills online. This represents a 75% increase from the end of last year. The new forecast by Forrester Research also projects that by 2010, the EBPP market share will be split nearly in half between banks and individual biller sites. Forrester says online bill payers have gravitated toward their individual billers’ sites over the past five years, but, banks will surge ahead in growth over the next five years. The report says Bank of America, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual have emerged as current market leaders. Forrester also noted that annual EBPP growth rates are slowing. The 26% year-over-year growth rate in 2004 will decline to just 7% in 2010.

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MERCHANT FEES 3Q/05

The average merchant service fee charged by Bankcard, MasterCard and
VISA in the third quarter edged up slightly to 92 basis points but
remains down by five basis points compared to one-year ago and down 140
basis points since interchange reforms took effect. American Express’
average merchant service fee declined by one basis point to 2.35% while
Diners Club fell six basis points to 2.31%, compared to the prior
quarter. One-year ago, American Express’ average merchant service fee
was 2.38% and Diners Club was 2.32%. Since the reforms came into effect,
the average merchant service fee charged by American Express has fallen
by around 15 to 20 basis points, while the average fee charged by Diners
Club has fallen by around five basis points. The Reserve Bank of
Australia says the smaller declines by American Express and Diners Club
has raised the premium that merchants pay to accept these cards. The RBA
notes that some merchants have indicated that they have little choice
but to accept American Express and Diners Club and find it difficult to
surcharge.

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Citizens Bank & GE’s CPS Offer Biz Card

Michigan-based Citizens Bank has begun promoting the “Productivity MasterCard,” issued and serviced by GE’s Corporate Payment Services, to its middle-market and small-business clients. Under the agreement, Citizens Bank is promoting a bank-branded version of the CPS Productivity MasterCard to its middle-market and small-business clients. The card’s suite of features helps companies streamline their purchasing and payment processes and control costs. Through the program, companies have access to discounts with suppliers of business goods and services, such as rental car, lodging, and office supplies, as well as an optional travel rewards program and includes Productivity Online, an online self-service tool that includes real-time tracking and reporting of transactions plus convenient online payment options. Citizens Banking Corporation is a diversified financial services company with assets of $7.9 billion as of Sept. 30, 2005. GE Consumer Finance is a leading provider of credit services to consumers, retailers and auto dealers in 47 countries around the world, with $150 billion in assets.

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Self-Service Personalized Gift Cards Introduced

Wal-Mart Stores has introduced a personalized gift card for the holiday season. There is an $0.88 fee for the personalization service. The process is self-service so customers can decide exactly how they want their gift card to appear. Customers can also go online to create personalized gift cards. They can upload photos and place orders at Walmart.com, and then pick up gift cards one hour later at a local Wal-Mart One Hour Photo Center location. The new gift card is available nationwide in all One Hour Digital Photo Centers at Wal-Mart stores, Neighborhood Markets, SAM’S CLUB locations and Walmart.com.

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SmartClixx Powers the New SWA Gift Card

Southwest Airlines and SmartClixx have teamed to launch a gift card. The “southwestgiftcard” is available for purchase at southwest.com, and is redeemable at southwest.com, Southwest Ticket Counter locations, or by calling Southwest Airlines Reservations. Southwest Airlines currently serves 61 cities in 31 states and operates more than 3,000 flights a day. SmartClixx LLC provides retailers with in-house stored value card/gift card application software and services without charging per-transaction fees.

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Axalto Protiva Provides Two-Factor Authentication

Axalto showcased its two-factor authentication solution “Protiva” last
week at Cartes 2005. “Protiva” enhances Internet banking
security by combining something the user has, such as a personal device,
and something the user knows, such as a PIN code. The “Protiva”
solution is plug and play as it does not require any PC footprint nor a
complex back end system, making it simple to deploy and very cost
effective for banks. Online users are protected through a one-time
password application that generates a unique eight digit number created
each time the user connects. The smart card stores the application and
the secret keys that are used to encrypt and send the one-time password
to the bank. An authentication server performs the same cryptographic
computation as the smart card device and verifies that the one-time
password matches.

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87% of Parents Approve of Gift Cards for Kids

A new poll has determined that 68% of parents plan to purchase a store-branded gift card this year. Only 22% plan to purchase a general purpose pre-paid gift card. The “Disney Rewards VISA Family Trends Report” found that 87% of parents who shop for the holidays feel that it is appropriate to give a child a gift card. The survey also found that 51% said they would surf the Internet until they locate the gift requested by their child. The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive for Chase, the issuer of the “Disney Rewards VISA” card.

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