Transoft Introduces OptiCa$h/Direct for ATMs

Transoft International has introduced “OptiCa$h/Direct” which connects XFS-based ATMs to Transoft’s “OptiCa$h Currency Management” application allowing for highly automated balancing, automatic balance updating, and on-board ATM cash monitoring. Transoft International, Inc. is the world’s largest provider of currency supply chain management and cost optimization solutions designed for the banking industry. It is a privately held company that manages cash for roughly 100,000 ATMs and bank branches with customers on six continents.

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VISA Lowers its Interchange for Utilities

VISA USA is targeting the $177 billion residential utilities market with a new campaign. Effective April 2nd, VISA is instituting, a new, lower interchange reimbursement fee program for consumer card transactions for the acquirers of utility merchants that do not charge convenience fees to consumers paying bills with VISA payment cards. Since many utilities are regulated, convenience fees have created a barrier to expanded acceptance. VISA says it currently processes approximately 2% of all utility bill payments, and that its volume in the utilities segment increased 42% during the year ending September 30th. Under the new campaign, VISA will provide utility firms a return on investment estimator, technology assistance, and marketing materials and programs, among other support items.

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AmEx and MSN Offer Free Music Downloads

American Express and MSN have teamed to offer free music downloads to AmEx consumer cardholders residing in the USA. The service is available via the “MSN Music Service” under two promotions. For every 10 songs purchased with the “Blue” or “Delta SkyMiles” credit card, or the AmEx “Charge Card,” consumer cardholders will automatically receive a free song credit to their MSN Music account. Also, consumers who apply for “Blue” or “Blue Cash” through a link on the MSN site will be eligible to receive a minimum of 10 free “MSN Music” downloads. MSN and AmEx are also launching “In the Mix on MSN Music,” a dynamic music hub where consumers can explore and discover music.

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CITI CORP CARDS

Citigroup Global Transaction Services and MasterCard International have inked a multi-year deal to launch commercial cards throughout the Asia/Pacific region. Citigroup says it will initially target multinational corporate clients in Hong Kong and Australia and then expand into Malaysia and Singapore. Citigroup is the only bankcard provider that can issue commercial card products in over thirty countries. Citigroup commercial cards are currently used by over one million corporate and government cardholders globally. The Citibank “Commercial Cards” suite includes – “Citibank Corporate Card,” “Purchasing Card,” “One Card,” and “Electronic Account.”

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Chase Sponsors the Amazon Theater; Opens Today

Amazon.com is debuting “Amazon Theater” today which is sponsored by Chase. The “Amazon Theater” features five short films and related items that can viewed on consumers PCs. The Chase brand will appear on the Amazon Theater player and the Amazon Theater homepage. The homepages for each of the five films and the pages that offer the products in the films will include an opportunity for consumers to sign up for the “Amazon.com Platinum VISA” card from Chase. Cardholders who use their “Amazon.com Platinum VISA” to purchase products featured in any of the films will receive 5% back on each purchase. New cardholders will also receive a $30 instant discount off their first qualifying Amazon.com order when they purchase items using their “Amazon.com Platinum VISA.” Chase and Amazon.com launched their co-branded card in 2002.

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AmEx Unleashes a Network Focused Ad Campaign

American Express unleashed a new global card brand campaign with the tagline “My life. My card.” The campaign is the first advertising campaign following the opening of the AmEx network to banks in the USA. It is also the company’s first ever umbrella campaign to support all issuers of AmEx-branded cards. The new ads will feature actor Robert DeNiro, golfer Tiger Woods, comedian Ellen DeGeneres and surfer Laird Hamilton. The message is that achievers of all types choose American Express. Director Martin Scorsese and photographer Annie Leibovitz were involved in the production. The campaign shows the signature panel and AmEx blue box logo, but no visuals of any individual card products.

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VISA Says Retail Spending Rose 7.7% Last Week

VISA released figures yesterday showing that spending on VISA cards during the first week of this month were up 15.7% over the same period last year. For the first week of November, VISA spending in the retail category rose by 7.7% to $7.3 billion. Spending in the retail category of “Discount, Mass Apparel and Drug Stores” experienced the biggest surge during the week, showing an 18.4% increase compared to the same time period in 2003. “Home and Garden” sales were up 12.7% and “Department Stores and Apparel” increased 8.9%.

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Commercial Cards Poised for Sharp Growth

A new survey has found that more than half of financial executives plan to reduce their organization’s reliance on checks as a form of commercial payment. The second annual cash management survey by VISA USA also found that 40% of respondents plan to increase their use of commercial payment cards. The survey found that commercial payment cards were used by 34% of respondents for an average of 22% of their total commercial payments. Six out of ten believed they were relevant or very relevant for cash disbursements; 53% believed they were relevant or very relevant for short-term money management and the collection and application of receivables; and, 48% believed they were relevant to very relevant for cash positioning and forecasting. VISA also found that an increasing number of respondents identify the importance of data access and utilization for the following key areas: visibility into payables and receivables (75%); online access to payment and invoice-related detail (77%); and, automated information reporting and back-end integration (70%).

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FASTMAX Debit Cards to be Launched

Las Vegas-based Global Links Card Services has partnered with First Federal Savings Bank of the Midwest to issue the “FASTMAX” debit card. Global Links Corp. is a diversified company that offers real estate information services along with a range of comprehensive electronic products to the retail, restaurant, and hospitality industries as well as certain national associations. First Midwest Financial, Inc. is the holding company for First Savings Bank of the Midwest and for the Security State Bank, both headquartered in Iowa.

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Merrick Bank Acquires 22 Provident Bank ISOs

CardWork’s Merrick Bank has acquired a portion of Provident Bank’s VISA and MasterCard ISOs sponsorship merchant business, bringing its total merchant base to 70,000 merchants. Merrick bank will now administer 22 of Provident Bank’s ISOs and merchants, along with their associated transaction volume. CardSystems, Inc. was the data processor for the VISA and MasterCard merchants and will process for them under Merrick. Merrick Bank issues non-prime credit cards. The bank serves more than 550,000 cardholders and has roughly $500 million in assets. CardWorks provides banks, financial guarantors, and credit card issuers with services, enabling them to economically pursue goals and objectives in addition to meeting service requirements.

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