Gift Cards Carry Significant Business Risks

A Los Angeles-based law firm is cautioning issuers in regard to prepaid gift cards. Pillsbury Winthrop says there are significant risks involved both for issuers and redeemers as states endeavor to regulate the fast growing industry. Many of the laws do not differentiate a gift card from other prepaid cards, and it is not clear whether the laws applicable to gift certificates apply to prepaid cards in general. Issuers of cards are also under the scrutiny of the federal government, which has a long roster of regulatory laws and regulations that potentially apply to prepaid cards. Some were implemented to oversee terrorism concerns of money laundering, while others deal with issues such as consumer privacy issues, licensing, and special reporting and booking requirements. Pillsbury Winthrop also notes that the issue of “escheat” obligations is also in question for issuers of prepaid cards. Most states require those businesses selling gift certificates escheat a remaining balance and give the money to the state as unclaimed property. Approximately 15 states don’t make a claim on abandoned card funds and the timing of escheat of those funds varies from state to state.

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Hypercom Offers Creditz Digital Loyalty Currency

Loyalty program specialist, CEO America, and Hypercom have teamed to provide card issuers and retailers with “Creditz” digital currency card transaction processing. Creditz is the first and only international sub micro-payment system that exchanges cash from consumer to merchant, merchant to consumer, manufacturer to consumer, and consumer to consumer in stores, online and through cell phones, including payments under one cent. Creditz’s Digital Currency Card converts loyalty points/miles and rebates into digital currency to purchase products. CEO America, Inc. is the exclusive master licensee for the United States of the Creditz System. Hypercom Corporation is a leading global provider of electronic payment solutions that add value at the point-of-transaction for consumers, merchants and acquirers, and yield increased profitability for its customers.

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Cash Systems Names a New CFO

MN-based Cash Systems has named David Clifford to EVP/CFO, effective January 1st, to replace Chris Larson who will become COO. Mr. Clifford has been providing strategic and financial consulting services to the Company for the last five months. Prior to Mr. Clifford’s consulting role at Cash Systems, he was the Executive Vice President and CFO of Crown Theatres LP, a division of Henry Crown and Company’s entertainment and leisure assets. Cash Systems, Inc., located in Minneapolis and Las Vegas, is a provider of cash access and related services to the retail and gaming industries.

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TSYS Names an Operational Quality Head

TSYS has hired Jeanne McDowell, formerly with GE Capital and First Data Resources, as group executive to lead its operational excellence initiatives. Her primary focus will be the continued deployment of the Six Sigma process improvement methodology across all TSYS business units. Prior to joining TSYS, Jeanne enjoyed an impressive career with Nextel Communications, GE Capital and First Data Resources. TSYS (NYSE: TSS) (www.tsys.com) brings integrity and innovation to the world of electronic payment services as the integral link between buyers and sellers in this rapidly evolving universe.

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Maybank Selects Welcome’s XLS to Upgrade EMV cards

Malayan Bank Berhad has chosen Welcome’s “XLS” to boost their EMV payment cards with customer centric features. “XLS” will be the foundation on which Maybank’s cardholders are rewarded via multi-channels starting with the common EMV-enabled terminals. Welcome provides smart card software that enhances payment transactions with real-time point of sale features such as welcome gifts, surprise bonuses, personal reminders, targeted samples, loyalty points, coupons, punch cards, vouchers, tickets, cash back and more, all in a single convenient payment process. Maybank is the largest financial services group in Malaysia.

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Metavante Lands LA Metro Contract

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will add debit and credit card options to its fare system next year. Milwaukee-based Metavante has been chosen to provide Metro with debit and credit card transaction acquiring, processing and settlement for customers purchasing tickets through Metro point-of-sale devices, the Internet, and rail ticket vending machines. Metro is in the process of replacing all existing rail TVMs as a part of its Universal Fare System implementation. Additionally, with the new TVMs, customers will have the ability to purchase transit passes and to reload their “Transit Access Pass” stored value cards. In 2002, the Metro signed an agreement with Metavante to issue reduced fare passes, which includes a web-enabled database, cardbase management, data entry, card personalization and fulfillment services. These products support a reduced fare program focused on students, senior citizens and disabled persons.

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NexSmart Becomes a Welcome Master Reseller

NexSmart Technologies has inked a deal to market Welcome’s “XLS” enhanced payment software to banks upgrading their debit and ATM cards to chip. Through this “Welcome Master Reseller” agreement, NexSmart will provide “XLS” software to banks and financial institutions migrating to the “FISC2” standard in Taiwan. NexSmart currently supplies more than 70% of the “FISC2” market share. There is a total base of approximately 60 million ATM cards in Taiwan. These cards are currently being converted from magstripe to chip. Smart card compliance is required by January 2006.

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OTI Third Quarter Revenues Climb 34%

On Track Innovations reported that revenues for the third quarter rose to $5.5 million, up 34% from the same period last year, and up 19% sequentially. OTI’s operating loss decreased 26% to $1.1 million from 3Q/03. During the third quarter, OTI completed the acquisition of ASEC of Poland whose software and back office systems for mass transit ticketing and payment solutions enable OTI to provide end-to-end solutions and focus on higher margin products in the growing European emerging markets. ASEC has already received an initial order exceeding $500,000 for a micropayments application allowing customers to pay for their mass transit tickets and other small ticket-items. Also, Sasol Oil, South Africa’s largest oil company, signed a long-term agreement to implement OTI’s petroleum payment solution in Sasol network to service both the oil company- contracted and bank-contracted fleet market and the private motorist sector. Additionally, OTI and Hypercom partnered to deliver contactless electronic card payment programs that add convenience, speed checkout and increase security. The companies’ combined technologies will help expand merchant and consumer use of contactless payment programs, at U.S. retail countertops. For complete details on OTI’s third quarter performance visit CardData (www.carddata.com).

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Credit Card Horse Race Continues in Q3

VISA and MasterCard continue to jockey for leadership in the credit card market as MasterCard leads in accounts but lags in outstandings. At the end of the third quarter, VISA had $293.5 billion in U.S. credit card outstandings, compared to $282.7 billion for MasterCard. MasterCard ended the quarter with 218 million credit card accounts, about three million more than VISA. Year-over-year, VISA’s credit card business grew 8.6% for 3Q/04 while MasterCard posted a small 0.8% gain. Based on third quarter outstandings, VISA has a 44.3% share of the U.S. bank credit card compared to 42.7% for MasterCard. American Express holds a 5.8% share while Discover has a 7.1% share. For complete details on VISA and MasterCard statistics for the third quarter visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

U.S. CREDIT CARD OUTSTANDINGS
($ Billions – Third Quarter 2004)
VISA $293.5 44.3%
MasterCard $282.7 42.7%
Discover $47.1* 7.1%
American Express: $38.7** 5.8%
*as of 8/31/04 ** excludes charge card outstandings
SOURCE: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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

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