Blue Cross/Shield to Offer VISA Debit Cards

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and VISA USA have signed a deal to offer “Blue”-branded VISA debit cards linked to CDHPs, FSAs, HRAs and HSAs enabling members to pay for healthcare related expenses. The Blue-branded Visa debit cards will be a central feature for members at participating Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies enrolled in consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). Consumer-directed products offer the same overall benefit as other forms of health insurance, but they combine a higher deductible threshold with a personal savings account, giving consumers more control over spending. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is made up of 39 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for more than 93 million.

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Battle Underway for Low-Value Transactions

A new report suggests that the under $10 transactions market has yet to be cracked for electronic payments but cash is losing some ground. Boston-based Aite Group says U.S. consumers make a total of 138 billion cash transactions annually. About 50% of those transactions are under $10. Approximately 95% of all such transactions are made in cash in the U.S. annually. Aite says its research shows the spread of contactless bankcards will likely boost U.S. issuers efforts to cannibalize cash. However, unless merchant acceptance costs are dramatically reduced, the high cost of bankcard processing will limit the issuer’s ability to drive away large volumes of cash transactions below $10. Aite concludes that competition will intensify between non-prepaid, bankcard-only approaches and prepaid approaches that leverage ACH, bankcard and closed-loop networks as the underlying funding mechanism.

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GO MASTERCARD

Harvey Norman and GE Money have officially launched their “GO
MasterCard” which offers no annual fee, 0% interest for the first six
months and a rewards program. The retailer is hoping the highly
competitive card will further stimulate holiday sales, which are running
7.6% higher than last year. The new card carries an on-going interest
rate of 17.5%. GE Money and Harvey Norman have a long-standing
relationship. There are more than 200 Harvey Norman, Domayne and Joyce
Mayne stores operating in Australia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Ireland,
Singapore and Malaysia. GE Money Australia and New Zealand offers
consumer finance products through 12,000 retailers, 700 dealers, 5,500
brokers and a network of more than 350 branches (including Wizard Home
Loans). GE Money, which includes the Australian Financial Investments
Group (including Wizard Home Loans) has assets greater than A$36billion
and more than 3 million customers.

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GCA Deploys Wincor ProCash 1500xe ATMs

Global Cash Access is now deploying 150 Wincor Nixdorf “ProCash 1500xe ATMs” in casinos throughout the U.S. and U.K. for GCA’s “Casino Cash Plus 3-in-1″ ATM system. The ProCash 1500xe is a compact indoor cash dispenser system designed for branch lobby or retail installations. The ProCash 1500xe has a very small footprint and includes up to four cassettes and a standard 12.1” LCD screen. ProView, Wincor Nixdorf’s ATM management tool, monitors the entire network and can repair certain problems remotely without sending an actual person on site to a Casino’s ATM. Global Cash Access, Inc. provides cash access products and related services to approximately 960 gaming properties and other clients in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Caribbean. Wincor Nixdorf is one of the world’s leading suppliers of IT solutions to banks and retailers.

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7-Eleven to Double its ATM Kiosk Program

7-Eleven has signed a five-year agreement with NCR to add 1,200 units to its advanced-function financial services kiosk program and replace other in-store ATMs in the U.S. NCR will also service the majority of 7-Eleven’ existing base of non-NCR ATMs. The 7-Eleven network currently has 1,050 kiosks which offer check cashing, Western Union money orders and transfers, bill payment and Verizon long distance services in addition to ATM services. The rollout under the new agreement begins this month. The deal also includes hardware and software maintenance services and incident management.

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Bank-Issued Gift Cards Gather Momentum

Bank-issued general purpose gift cards got a real boost this week as two major issuers launched new cards. Retailer-issued cards currently dominate the $75+ billion U.S. gift card market, however, bank-issued cards are quickly gaining ground as consumers opt for cards with maximum flexibility. Yesterday, Washington Mutual launched the “WaMu MasterCard Gift Card” and First National of Nebraska introduced the “smartOne VISA Gift Card.” WaMu is offering six cards in increments ranging from $25 to $500. The card has an issuance fee of $3.95 plus a $1 first-class shipping and handling charge which is waived through the end of the year. First National Bank is now offering customers the ability to personalize their gift cards online using their favorite photos. The issuer also continues to offers six categories of designed cards. The “smartOne VISA Gift Card” is available in any dollar amount from $25 to $750. First National is charging a a $5.95 service fee for standard designs and $8.95 for personalized cards.

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Citadel Launches SecureSwipe

Vancouver-based Citadel Commerce has launched “SecureSwipe”, a device that enables PIN debit and swiped credit card purchases to be made from home. The
“SecureSwipe” PIN pad is a hand held, DUKPT encryption compliant
device containing a keypad and LCD display and interfaces to a
consumer’s PC via industry standard USB technology. “SecureSwipe”
utilizes VPN tunneling technology to transmit fully encrypted PIN blocks
to Citadel’s data center, making it possible for a consumer to purchase
“myCitadel Wallet” e-money using a bank issued ATM PIN debit card.
Citadel provides secure online payment processing solutions.

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Co-Branded Oil Credit Cards Generate More Profit

A new study found that co-branded oil credit cards generate 37 euros in additional annual profit than bank-only cards. The “Oil Company Credit Cards: A Review of Rates and Redemption” report, offered by Research & Markets, says co-branded credit cards typically encourage a higher rate of transactions and generate three times as much turnover than bank-only cards. More versatile than the fuel card, co-branded oil company credit cards offer forecourt retailers the opportunity to enhance consumer loyalty, increase brand recognition and compete successfully with the co-branded credit cards offered by grocery multiples. In the commercial market, credit cards accounted for 23% of fuel sold in 2004 across Europe.

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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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