Circuit City Reports Card Agent Revenues

VA-based Circuit City reported second quarter credit revenues of $6.6 million from its agent relationship with Chase for private-label and co-branded credit cards. Before the most recent second quarter, private-label and co-branded credit cards were available through First North American National Bank, Circuit City’s wholly owned subsidiary. Private-label and co-branded finance income was not included in the total sales. It was reported as finance income on the consolidated statements of operations in all prior periods. Circuit City Stores, Inc. is a retailer of consumer electronics.

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Western Union Opens its 200,000th Global Agent

Western Union Financial Services and Orlandi Valuta opened its 200,000th global agent location with a ceremony in Athens. Two Olympic medal winning Greek athletes, Hrysopiyi Devetzi and Ilias Iliadis were part of the ceremony. Devetzi and Iliadis joined Western Union President Christina Gold at the new Agent location on Omonia Square. This location is one of seven opened simultaneously in Athens by Christopher C. Varvias & Associates S.A., which operates a network of nearly 600 Western Union Agent locations throughout Greece.

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ASIA/PACIFIC OPTIMISM

MasterCard released an optimistic retail sales forecast for the second half of this year for Asia/Pacific. During the first six months of 2004, MasterCard purchase volume in the region was up 13.1%, rising 15.5% in the second quarter. According to the latest “MasterIndex of Retail,” year-on-year retail sales volumes are anticipated to grow for all 12 Asia/Pacific markets covered under the forecast. Prospects for Singapore are the brightest with a forecasted year-on-year growth of 19.0% for the second half of the year. Double digit growth is also expected from China (12.0%) and Taiwan (10.5%), followed closely by Thailand (9.8%), Hong Kong (9.5%) and Malaysia (8.5%). Other Asia/Pacific markets, while less bullish, yet indicating positive year-on-year growth include; Indonesia (4.3%), Japan (3.9%) and
Australia (2.8%).

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First Atlantic Gets AISP and CISP Certified

First Atlantic Commerce has earned certification for VISA and MasterCard’s account information security and site data protection programs. VISA International “Account Information Security Program” (AISP) is the international equivalent of the VISA “Cardholder Information Security Program” (CISP). Additionally, FAC has successfully completed MasterCard International?s Site Data Protection program with full compliance. FAC is a registered MSP/TPP in the Latin America Caribbean Region as well as a registered VISA ISO. In March, FAC was also certified for VISA and MasterCard?s acquirer “3-D Secure Payer Authentication” (MPI) solutions and are actively enrolling merchants in the program.

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FTC Investigates Collusion Allegations

The Fair Trade Commission has launched an investigation into merchant fee pricing after allegations surfaced that credit card companies colluded to raise fees. The FTC dispatched investigators to BC Card, LG Card, KB Card, and the Credit Finance Association. The FTC is also investigating the Korea Franchise Business Association to determine if its members committed illegal collective activities while protesting against the recent fee hikes. The country’s largest discount retailer, E-Mart, recently filed a lawsuit against KB Card, BC Card, and LG Card over new transaction fees, and has stopped taking cards in some of its stores.

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BMAC to Use MIFARE UltraLight Contactless Chips

Beijing Municipal Administration and Communications Card Co. Ltd. will utilize Philips’ “MIFARE UltraLight” contactless chip technology in a new e-ticketing system for the Great Wall of China at Badaling, Beijing. The new card will replace the existing magnetic card access. The new e-ticketing system is compatible with Beijing’s existing
‘One-Card” ticketing system, which will be used at the “2008 Olympics” and will also support Beijing Public Transportation mass transit cards based on Philips'”MIFARE” contactless chip technology. Contactless systems are planned to be installed at other tourist attractions, including other renowned tourist spots in Beijing and elsewhere in China.

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New Trend: Cards Exclusively for Women

Banks outside the USA are targeting women with specially configured credit cards. This week a JCB smart card was launched in Taiwan featuring a built-in UV sensor, last month a bank in the UAE began offering a high brow MasterCard for woman only, and a bank in India recently introduced a VISA card that includes special jewelery insurance as a perk. Taiwan’s E. Sun Bank and Taiwan Wacoal, a major Japanese apparel company, launched the “Wacoal JCB I-Card” which offers a chip-based loyalty program and an on-card sensor measuring the strength of ultraviolet exposure for the protection of skin. The card offers a progressive cashback program and a points program. In the UAE, ABN AMRO rolled-out the “Al Ameera MasterCard” wherein the primary accountholder is required to be female. In the Middle-East women are rarely primary cardholders. The UAE card offers rewards redeemable at partners such as Damas, Red Earth, Toni & Guy, Calvin Klein as well as numerous cafes, health spas and beauty salons. Citibank India introduced the “Citibank Woman’s International VISA Card” that offers special jewelery insurance, free magazines subscriptions including Cosmopolitan, and generates contributions to associations for unprivileged women. For details on these new international cards visit CardFlash International ([www.cardflashinternational.com][1]).

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

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RBS Completes Acquisition of Ohio Bank

The Royal Bank of Scotland’s U.S. subsidiary, Citizens Financial Group, has completed its acquisition of Ohio-based Charter One. RBS paid about $10.5 billion for the bank. At the close of the transaction, Citizens became the 12th largest commercial bank holding company in the United States with more than $131 billion in assets, and the ninth largest in deposits with more than $88 billion. Citizens Bank now has nearly 2,700 ATMs in 13 states.

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VISA Olympic Marketing Produces Solid Gold

The average transaction value of VISA card purchases at “Olympic” venues during the 17 day event period was up 44% to $103.50, compared to the “Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.” Athens-based ALPHA Bank says that the number of VISA transactions it handled in August were up 55% compared to one-year ago. More than 50,000 withdrawals were made from the 17 ATM machines especially installed by VISA and ALPHA Bank, a 41% jump over Sydney 2000 volume. The increased activity was driven by VISA “Olympic” marketing programs by VISA members in 56 countries. In Europe, there were 17 national promotions, and a further 70 members participating in “Olympic” activity. This resulted in over 43 million pieces of “Olympic” marketing material being distributed to cardholders. During the “Games” more than 58,000 merchants in the Attica area, together with the five other “Olympic” venue cities embraced the “Games” by displaying 300,000 pieces of VISA point of sale material. About 5,000 “VISA Money Olympic Games Prepaid” chip cards were issued to the “Olympic” family by VISA and a further 5,000 prepaid cards were issued by ALPHA Bank directly to consumers.

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Bank of Punjab Hires Diebold ATM Management

Bank of Punjab has selected Mumbai-based Diebold Systems Pvt.
Ltd. to supply a variety of professional and managed services for its multi-brand network of 180 ATMs. Under the agreement, Diebold will provide electronic journal uploading and content management services on ATMs from multiple vendors for the Bank of Punjab’s ATM network. The electronic journal uploading service transmits data to a central location and facilitates online analysis that simplifies reconciliation and settlement, while ensuring accuracy and security. Diebold’s contract with the Bank of Punjab also includes automated call escalation, which ensures ATM availability is consistently monitored with an automated system. Aside from providing hardware maintenance, Diebold will also
offer ATM monitoring that acts as an intermediary between the network
service provider and the bank to increase ATM availability.

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