UK Card Outstandings Hits the Brakes

The British Bankers Association, which compiles statistics on major British banking groups, says there was a small net repayment of credit card borrowing in April and that the six month average has declined steadily from GBP 500 million in August 2004 to GBP 200 million in April. The BBA data also show that credit card lending grew a modest GBP 50 million in February, GBP 134 million in March and GBP 40 million in April. The Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England decided May 9th to maintain its benchmark interest rate at 4.75%, according to CardFlash International.

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Citibank Introduces the Mercury Drug VISA

Citibank and Mercury Drug have launched a co-branded credit card that offers a range of health-related benefits to cardholders. The new “Mercury Drug-Citibank VISA” card is the first card in the country to offer a 2% rebate for Mercury Drug transactions and 0.5% rebate for all other purchases. Principal card holders can also receive a free annual physical examination at Healthway Medical Clinics. Cardholders can also enjoy discounts from partner merchants.

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UK ATM Deployments Grow by 17% Last Year

The number of ATMs has increased by nearly 8,000 last year in the U.K. to a total of 54,412. The number of withdrawals from cash machines reached 2.53 billion in 2004, with an average value of GBP64 from bank-owned ATMs and GBP45 for withdrawals at independently-owned machines. Since 1997, the number of ATMs in the country has doubled from 23,200 according to last week’s issue of CardFlash International. The report also reveals that more people than ever are now regularly using cash machines – with 32.9 million using them to withdraw cash, check balances and even to top up mobile phones. Users now account for more than 75% of all plastic cardholders in the UK.

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Wells Fargo Expands InterCuenta Express

Wells Fargo has signed deals with three Latin American banks to expand its “InterCuenta Express” remittance service to El Salvador and Guatemala. The new remittance services through Banco Agricola, Banco De Desarrollo Rural and Banco Industrial allow U.S. customers to send up to US$3,000 a day from their accounts to accounts in El Salvador and Guatemala for $8.00 per transaction. Banco Agricola has the largest network in El Salvador with 60 branches, 300 ATMs and one million customers. Banrural — Banco De Desarrollo Rural S.A. has 315 branches and access to more than 800 ATMs. Banco Industrial, S.A., with assets of US$ 2.7 billion, is Guatemala’s largest bank with 285 branches and 882 ATMs. Wells Fargo & Company is a diversified financial services company with $436 billion in assets serving 23 million customers.

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Merchants Coalition Adds Another Member

The Merchants Payments Coalition added another supporter last week as the National Restaurant Association joined the industry group. The Merchants Payments Coalition was recently formed by 12 merchant groups to fight rising interchange fees. The group says that interchange collected from its members accounts for about one-quarter of that total, and coalition members account for about 40% of all credit and debit card transactions. The National Restaurant Association is comprised of 900,000 restaurant and food service outlets.

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GECF Celebrates GE Money’s First Anniversary

Celebrating its one-year birthday, the GE Money brand has been
unveiled in 25 countries around the world. GE Money products include private label credit cards, personal loans, bank cards, auto loans and leases, mortgages, corporate travel and purchasing cards, debt consolidation, home equity loans and credit insurance. Yoshiaki Fujimori is the President and CEO of GE Consumer Finance Asia while GE Money Australia operates in Australia and New Zealand and is headed by President and CEO Tom Gentile. Beginning in 2004, the GE Money brand was introduced in Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany. Throughout 2005, the GE Money brand has been launched in Europe, as well as Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore and Thailand.

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BSP Rewards Network to be an ISO

Florida-based MediaNet Group Technologies has inked six new companies in its “BSP Rewards Network” and has finalized its agreement with MasterCard to become an authorized ISO for the company’s store value rewards cards. Companies in the network are able to offer their customers up to 15 percent in rewards, which they can spend like cash at any participating BSP Rewards Network merchant. MediaNet Group’s BSP Rewards Network is a private label rewards and loyalty marketing program for merchants and service providers.

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Asia Pay Q1 Gross Profit Margin Up 68%

Asia Payment Systems reported that its first full fiscal quarter of operations showed a 68% gross profit margin. The Company says its credit bureau operations, which currently are in the pilot program stage, hold significant potential for increasing shareholder value in the future. Asia Pay’s mission is to be a national provider of world-class, third-party processing services in China to bankcard-accepting merchants, issuers of bank credit cards, issuers of petroleum station retail cards, and issuers of merchandise and other retail cards. Systems, hardware, and personnel are now in place as Asia Pay commences delivering service to clients.

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Another Pile-On Lawsuit Against MBNA

Seeger Weiss has filed a class action against MBNA for purchasers of MBNA stock between January 20th and April 21st. The complaint alleges that on January 21, 2005, the start of the class period, MBNA issued the first earnings forecast in the Company’s history, projecting an ongoing 12% earnings increase, with a 10% increase in 2005 earnings over 2004. According to the complaint, negative facts which were known by each of the defendants were concealed from the investing public during the class period. Following the company’s April 21, 2005 disclosures concerning its business operations, financial results and reduced 2005 earnings expectations, the Company’s stock price plummeted from its closing price of $23.11 on the close of April 20, 2005 to below $19 per share on trading volume of 51 million shares. MBNA is an international financial services company providing lending, deposit, and credit insurance products and services to its customers.

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Sparkasse Hannover to Deploy NCR Personas M ATMs

Sparkasse Hannover has selected NCR’s “Personas M Series” ATMs.
The bank will install 37 new “Personas M Series 76” ATMs in its branch lobbies as through-the-wall units. The units will be equipped with the new self-service units, which will be initially configured to recycle cash. Recycling solutions, popular in some European and Asian markets, require considerably less frequent refill of ATMs, thereby reducing the bank’s cash replenishment and management costs.

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Commercialbank Launches Free-For-Life WOW VISA

Commercialbank has launched a new VISA that carries no annual fee for life. The new “WOW VISA” is also offering a free Qatar
Airways economy class ticket for approved applicants. The free ticket is good for select destinations and requires the cardholder to pay pay the nominal processing fees and airport taxes. The card also offers up to 50% discounts at over 200 outlets in Qatar as “Wafapoints.” The “WOW VISA” requires a minimum annual income of QR1,500.

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