FirstMerit Rewards Biz Credit and Debit

OH-based FirstMerit has introduced a rewards program on its debit card and credit card for businesses. The “FirstMerit VISA Rewards Program” rewards business owners with one point for each dollar charged to the credit card or one point for each dollar in debit signature purchases. Each point is worth about 2.5 cents. New cardholders earn 10,000 bonus points. Points can be redeemed via the Internet using an online catalogue. The VISA cards are part of a suite of new business services which also include “FirstMerit Free Business Checking,” “FirstMerit Business Resource Center,” and upgraded “FirstMerit e-Connect” treasury management system.

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Chase/Bank One Names TSYS its Card Processor

The mystery ended yesterday afternoon as J.P. Morgan Chase delivered official notification to TSYS to continue providing processing for the combined Chase and Bank One card portfolio for now. Exclusive negotiations are currently underway for a definitive contract, that Chase says it expects to sign within a few weeks. Under terms of yesterday’s deal, TSYS will also complete a planned upgrade of card-processing technology under a previous contract with Bank One. In the future, Chase will have the option to transfer card processing services in-house under a license of the “TS2” software. The combined Bank One and Chase portfolio has approximately $125.2 billion in outstandings, based on first quarter results. The portfolio has about 87.2 million cardholders, and 71.8 million accounts, according to CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

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

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Payment Cards Will Top Cash in the UK

This year will be a watershed for Brits as spending on plastic cards will squeak by cash as the the most popular method of payment in the UK. Payment volume on credit and debit cards is expected to hit £269 billion, compared to £268 billion for cash payments, with the gap widening to £179 billion by 2013. According to the APACS’ “The Way We Pay” study, the displacement of cash comes after a year in which the number of plastic cards in use grew by 13 million to 160.6 million, accounting for £243.9 billion of spending. Debit cards accounted for two-thirds of plastic card transactions and more than half of expenditure on plastic in 2003. APACS says plastic card use will be helped by the increasing use of “Chip and PIN,” which will see signatures replaced by PIN authorization of plastic card transactions. The country has invested £1.1 billion in “Chip and PIN” and as a result plastic card fraud has fallen for the first time in eight years.

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GE to Issue Linens’n Things Card

GE Consumer Finance has inked a deal with Linens’n Things to launch the first private-label credit card program for Linens’n Things Stores in Canada. Card benefits include 10% off the first purchase at any Linens’n Things store; special offers and discounts; no annual fee; and the chance to earn rewards for every $1 spent and a $10 reward certificate for every $250 spent. Under the agreement, GE Consumer Finance will provide marketing, risk management, customer service, collections and payment processing. GE will provide the services via offices in Edmonton and Toronto.

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MD FCU Converts to the Encore Platform

MD-based Public Health Service FCU has completed the conversion of their credit card portfolio to the Encore Card Services platform. Public Health Service FCU members have received their new plastics and have begun using their new accounts. As a member of Encore Card Services, Public Health Service Federal Credit Union will be able to provide their members with the exceptional quality service and processing that the Encore Card Services program has to offer. Encore Card Services was created through a partnership with ENCORE® Cooperative of Falls Church, VA and T.K. Keith Company of Wakefield, MA in order to offer credit unions full service MasterCard or Visa credit card issuing and processing solutions.

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International Currency Bill Validator Coming

PA-based MEI will offer the “CASHFLOW SC83” next month, the industry’s first bill validator to accept the majority of international currencies. The product, which will become commercially available in August 2004, is ideal for use in key retail applications including kiosks, enhanced ATMs, Order, Pay, and Go systems for the quick-serve industry, and other self-serve systems requiring reliable unattended transactions. The MEI CASHFLOW SC83 is designed to maximize retailer revenue by accepting all legal currency as well as worn and damaged bills. MEI payment systems are relied upon for more than 1 billion transactions per week in 90 countries.

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MC APMEA EXEC

MasterCard International has named Natalie Lockwood to vice president, Marketing, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Over the past six years Sydney-based Lockwood has served as MasterCard’s Marketing Director for Australia and New Zealand, instrumental in translating global strategies locally and developing local advertising,
promotions, public relations and sponsorship activity. She successfully launched the popular ‘Priceless’ advertising campaign in the Australia/New Zealand region and has coordinated its
continual rollout. Lockwood was previously
Marketing Manager of the Card Products Division at Citibank Limited

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BoCOM Signs Diebold to Manage 5,000 ATMs

Bank of Communications has awarded its first contract for managed ATM services to Diebold. According to the agreement, Diebold’s comprehensive managed services, including content distribution, event monitoring, transaction processing data collection based on Web technology, and more, will help BoCOM more efficiently manage its ATM network of more than 5,000 terminals across more than 2,000 business outlets. The project is the first nationwide large-scale managed services deal in the self-service industry within the China market.
In October 2003, BoCOM initiated its nationwide “ATMnet Managed Services” project.

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Dione Expands into Latin America

Dione announced a distribution agreement with GlobalTek Group S.A., a Panama based payment and retail specialist. GlobalTek will also help develop Dione’s presence in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Colombia. Dione is extending its reach beyond the UK across the world with significant extensions to banking relationships in Scandinavia, South Africa and Latin America. Dione is also working with new technology partners in a number of new regions and is a chosen supplier for MasterCard’s global “M-TIP” terminal improvement program. Dione plc is the fastest growing supplier of smart card based payment systems in the world and is now operating in 20 new international territories.

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Retriever Payment Systems is Recapitalized

Houston-based Retriever Payment Systems has been recapitalized by GTCR Golder Rauner. The transaction was valued at $250 million. Windward Capital and other investors sold their interests in the company as a result of the transaction. During the twelve months ended June 30th, Retriever processed approximately $8.1 billion in transaction volume and ended the period with over 95,000 merchant accounts. Merrill Lynch Capital and American Capital Strategies provided debt financing for the transaction.

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Encore Capital Group Closes its Biggest Deal

San Diego-based Encore Capital Group has closed on the largest portfolio purchase in the Company’s history. Encore paid $13.0 million for a portfolio with a face value of $421 million, at an average purchase price of 3.1%. The portfolio contains 213,000 accounts. During the last four years, Encore has purchased approximately 200 portfolios that range up to $9.5 million in purchase price. The new accounts were financed utilizing Encore’s new revolving credit facility with J.P. Morgan Chase, which closed last week. The remaining 16% of the portfolio consists of credit card accounts financed under the Company’s Secured Financing Facility.

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