Three Large Grocery Chains May Offer the Ultima Card

MaxxZone says it is in negotiations with three of the largest grocery chains in the U.S. to offers its “Ultima Card Twin-Access Debit Card Pack.” The Company’s sales strategy is to sign up as many independent retail merchants as quickly as possible, as well as focus on a few “marquis” named chains to achieve its 2004 sales objective. The two-card product also means funds can be shared with family and friends worldwide using the Cirrus and Maestro networks. ACS is a Delaware Corporation formed in August 2002, with its operational center in Orlando, Fla. MaxxZone purchased all the assets of ACS on April 27th.

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Gemplus Consolidates German Operations

After carving out a slight profit in the first quarter, Gemplus is closing its German manufacturing facility in Herne, according to last week’s issue of CardFlash International. The smart card provider also announced a new CFO/EVP to replace Yves Guillaumot. Gemplus posted a 300,000 euro profit in the first quarter after racking up net losses of 477.2 million euros over the past two years. Gemplus plans to transfer of all Herne’s PVC activities to Havant; and its local activities, including the personalization of German bank and Healthcare cards, to Filderstadt. The action will give Gemplus one specialist PVC site in Europe, at Havant, England, and enable the Company to concentrate its personalization activities for Germany on one site, in Filderstadt. The proposed plan for Herne could result in the loss of 180 jobs. Gemplus currently employs some 350 employees in Germany. A plan for the transfer of some employees within the group will be offered and supported. The Company noted that the salesforce, technical consultants and the R&D team at Ismaning, Germany, are unaffected by the plans. Meanwhile, Gemplus named Frans Spaargaren as the new Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President, effective June 1st, replacing Guillaumot. Frans Spaargaren, of Dutch nationality, was formerly Executive Vice President of Philips International, with responsibility for it’s joint venture operations.

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CREDIT CARDS MAR04

Consumer purchase volume on credit cards surged by 20.7% during March, as balances grew 13.3%, and credit lines edged up 12.1% per annum. During March, Australians charged A$12.4 billion in purchases on credit cards compared to A$10.3 billion one-year ago. At the end of the first quarter, consumers owed A$26.7 billion on credit cards versus $23.6 billion for March 2003. The ratio of credit card balances to card credit limits increased slightly during March, from 36.9% to 37.3%, compared to one-year ago, according to data released by the Reserve Bank of Australia. One-year ago, consumers owed A$23.6 billion with total credit lines of A$63.9 billion. Card credit limits reached A$71.6 billion at the end of March.

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Missouri State Courts Tap ACS to Collect Fines

Dallas-based ACS has won a six-year contract to assist Missouri State courts with debt collection. In this first-of-its-kind business processing outsourcing agreement, ACS and the Office of State Court Administrator will form a public-private partnership structured as a pay-for-performance contract with no up-front investment by the State. ACS’ goal is to assist the Missouri State court system by significantly enhancing the rate of compliance with court ordered fees and fines, and to improve overall service levels through systemic technology and process improvements. ACS, a Fortune 500 company with more than 40,000 people supporting client operations in nearly 100 countries, provides business process and information technology outsourcing solutions to world-class commercial and government clients.

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MasterCard Releases Procurement Guide

MasterCard International has released a procurement opportunities guide for small businesses entitled: “An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Selling to Governments and Corporations”. The guide provides small businesses in the United States with detailed information that assists them in marketing products and services to large corporations and state, federal and foreign governments. Government and corporate procurement offer lucrative sales and business growth opportunities to small businesses in the United States. In the U.S. alone, government purchases are worth almost $250 billion each year, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration – this makes the U.S. government the world’s largest procurement organization. MasterCard International is a leading global payments solutions company that provides a broad variety of innovative services in support of our global members’ credit, deposit access, electronic cash, business-to-business and related payment programs.

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Three-Quarters of UK Card Volume is Interest-Free

More than half of British consumers consistently pay-off their credit card balances each month, compared to less than 40% in the USA, according to this week’s CardFlash International, released yesterday. Additionally, more than 10% usually paid in full. According to the Association for Payment Clearing Services’ “2003 Consumer Payments Survey,” based on dollars charged to credit cards, 77% of last year’s credit card expenditure was incurred by people who always repaid in full in the next billing period, and a further 8% was incurred by those who usually repaid in full. Based on cardholders, APACS found that in a typical billing cycle 54% of credit card holders always repaid in full; 11% usually paid in full; and only 12% made the minimum payment. The remaining 23% consisted of cardholders who carried a balance forward but made more than the minimum repayments. There were a total of 30.35 million credit cardholders in 2003. In the twelve months to March 2004, average monthly plastic card expenditure grew by 12.2% to $35.6 billion per month, shared evenly between debit cards (up 15.4% to $19 billion) and credit cards (up 8.7% to $16.6 billion). Monthly average transaction volumes grew by 7.5% to average 432 million card purchases per month, with debit card use up by 22.6 million to 276.1 million and credit cards up by 5.2 million to 156.0 million. Debit cards were used for 65% of all plastic card transactions during March 2004. The “2003 Consumer Payments Survey” based on a sample of 4,000 people and was surveyed by market research firm Ipsos UK last year.

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Digital Dining POS System Runs on HPS Exchange

NJ-based Heartland Payment Systems has certified Menusoft Systems’ “Digital Dining POS System” which enables “Digital Dining” clients to process online, high-speed payments using an integrated interface direct to Heartland’s data processing center, “HPS Exchange”. HPS brings extensive experience focused on the hospitality industry to this partnership with numerous exclusive endorsements from state associations across the country for its credit card and “all electronic” payroll processing services, both featuring industry-specific enhancements. Digital Dining is now in its 20th year of production and development. An original innovator in the PC-based POS hospitality market, they continue to lead their industry with extremely innovative functionality and features. Heartland Payment Systems Inc. (HPS) is a full-service payment systems solution’s provider, handling merchant card and payroll processing services for merchants of all types and sizes.

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Dummy MasterCard Scamster Hit with a $12MM Fine

A Largo, FL-based firm has been ordered to pay more than $12 million in consumer redress over a bogus MasterCard credit card offer. The FTC says Peter Porcelli, and his Bay Area Business Council and American Leisure Card companies victimized tens of thousands of consumers offering a low-interest unsecured MasterCard credit card for an advance fee. Although consumers paid $199 or more for the credit cards, no consumers received credit cards. Instead, consumers received a temporary “dummy” card with a MasterCard logo and the name “Bay Area Business Council” or “1st American Leisure Card” on the front, and a non-magnetic black strip on the back. When consumers complained or tried to activate the card they were told for the first time that, for an additional fee, they could obtain a debit card, but never a credit card. The defendants also did not tell consumers that in addition to the requirement that they deposit their own money in advance for any purchases they wished to make with the debit card, they would pay substantial fees every time they attempted to use the card. The court order stems from FTC charges filed in August 2002.

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USTT Eyes Kiosk Market for e-Port

PA-based USA Technologies this week announced it will enter the kiosk market with its range of wireless activated credit card transaction products. According to kiosk consulting firm Summit Research, 397,000 kiosks were deployed in 2003 and it is expected to reach 738,000 kiosks by 2007. Because USA Technologies offers connectivity to the Internet via wireless, the savings are substantial. Wireless connectivity allows kiosk owners to avoid the high cost of connecting each kiosk with a landline. SA Technologies is a leader in the networking of distributed assets, wireless non-cash transactions, associated financial/network services and energy management.

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DW’s Nucleus POS Expands Globally with ExxonMobil

TX-based Dresser Wayne this week reported the installation of the 1400th “Nucleus” point-of-sale system at ExxonMobil company-owned and distributor retail operations. Dresser signed a contract with ExxonMobil in early 2002 to install scalable POS systems in up to 1,600 stores in the USA. Dresser Wayne says it is also involved in providing ExxonMobil with similar “Nucleus” POS solutions and services in Germany, Switzerland, Central Europe, Norway and Singapore. Earlier this year, Dresser Wayne began piloting a new gasoline dispenser point-of-sale system that resides entirely within the dispenser, allowing transactions to be conducted without the need of a central computer system. The new “In-Dispenser Point of Sale” is the first Ethernet-controlled forecourt ever deployed and the first technology of its kind that allows fueling centers to be operational 100% of the time. It is being tested at a major hypermarket Austin, Texas. Dresser expects to roll-out “IDPOS” this quarter. (CF Library 2/12/04)

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Card Stocks Slip as Fed Rate Increase Looms

The anticipated increase in short-term interest rates has already spooked investors in the nation’s top credit card players. MBNA is trading about 8% lower than one-month ago, while American Express dipped 3%, and re-bounding Capital One slipped about 1% compared to March 19th. MBNA is nearly 16% off its 52-week high, while AmEx is off 8% and Capital One off 7%. According to CardData’s “Payment Card Stock Index,” credit card issuers are down 8.5% year-to-date to an index share price of $25.88. MBNA is now trading at $25 per share, compared to $27 last month, and compared to its 52-week high of nearly $30. AmEx now trading at $49.50 per share, compared to $51 last month, and compared to its 52-week high of $54. Capital One is trading at $71.98 per share, compared to $72.40 last month, and compared to its 52-week high of $77.67. Capital One’s Chairman/CEO, Richard Fairbank, this week began to unload up to one million stock shares in the Company. MBNA recently noted in its SEC filings that a 100 basis point increase in interest rates could reduce net income by $67 million for the year. MBNA said it could offset its costs by raising interest rates for cardholders but the company noted there is a lag of about 45 days before rate hikes take effect upon cardholders. Several top issuers have begun to migrate back to variable interest rates to ease the impact of rising rates. (CF Library 5/17/04)

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AmEx Airs Second Seinfeld and Superman Webisode

American Express this week released its second webisode featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Superman. The new “Hindsight is 20/20” promotes AmEx’s “Roadside Assistance” service. The sequel, shot on location in Death Valley, CA, follows Superman and Seinfeld on a cross-country road, during which Superman locks the keys in the car and Seinfeld calls AmEx for assistance. The first webisode, “A Uniform Used to Mean Something,” set in New York City, debuted on the AmEx Web site March 29th. Both webisodes were co-written by Seinfeld and directed by Barry Levinson. The first webisode, “A Uniform Used To Mean Something” aired last night on NBC before the encore performance of the “FRIENDS” finale. The “Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman” webisodes are produced under a license from DC Comics and Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

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