Credit.Com Gives Away Credit Reports and ID Theft Insurance

San Francisco-based Credit.Com is offering consumers free access to credit reports during December and free identity theft insurance from AIG Affinity Group Services. The one-year defense package includes identity theft and Internet fraud insurance as well as crisis resolution services for identity theft victims. Nearly 10 million Americans became victims of identity theft last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission — a 41 percent increase over the year before — making identity theft the fastest growing crime in the U.S. Credit.Com was formed to give consumers access to accurate, trustworthy credit resources. The Credit.Com network provides consumers with vital products and services to help them build, protect, and maintain healthy credit.

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MBNA Changes the Guard at the Top at Year-End

MBNA confirmed that Charlie Cawley, founder and current CEO of MBNA Corporation, will retire effective December 30th and will be replaced by Bruce Hammonds. Also, John Cochran has been appointed Chairman and CEO of MBNA America Bank, the primary subsidiary of MBNA Corporation. He currently is president of the bank. Hammonds and Cochran were members of the management team that established MBNA in 1982. MBNA Corporation Chairman Randy Lerner says Cawley, Hammonds, and Cochran produced exceptional results for more than 20 years including more than 12 consecutive years of earnings growth averaging more than 20% since the corporation became a public company. Cawley is 63, Hammonds 55, and Cochran 52. For the third quarter MBNA reported net income of $658.8 million, an increase of 66% compared to the third quarter of 2002, and a gain of 21% over the prior quarter.

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Terra Payments Picks Up a Canadian Information Productivity Award

Montreal-based Terra Payments, formerly SureFire Commerce, has been awarded a “Canadian Information Productivity Award” for its automated risk management system which screens credit card and electronic check payments. The Canadian Information Productivity Awards is a celebration of IT and innovation implementation excellence in all types of organizations across the country. Terra Payments offers highly specialized credit card and cheque processing services for businesses around the world, via Internet and mail order-telephone order (MOTO). The company has processed more than 50 million transactions since introducing proprietary, platform technology three years ago. Terra Payments is one of only 13 Canadian companies to receive a 2003 CIPA Award, chosen from a field of 140 entrants. Terra Payments Inc. is an international leader in the payment processing industry.

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Holiday Retail Sales Up 5%, Card Spending Up 9%

Retail spending on credit and debit cards for Friday and Saturday, November 28th and 29th, topped $6.6 billion. Americans pulled out major credit cards to charge more than $4.8 billion, and used off-line debit cards to charge $1.8 billion in holiday purchases. The estimates are based on data provided by VISA, which currently has a 42.5% share of the U.S. general purpose credit card market, and a 78.1% share of the U.S. off-line debit card market. VISA USA reported that overall spending on its credit and debit cards for Friday and Saturday, November 28th and 29th, exceeded $6.5 billion, a 12% gain over the same period last year. Retail spending, using VISA-branded card products, was up 9%, topping $3.4 billion for the two days. VISA also reported that debit card spending at retailers rose 15%, with a total of 25.7 million transactions for the two-day period, accounting for $1.4 billion in sales. Credit card spending at retailers with VISA-branded cards grew 6%, with more than $2.0 billion in volume for the same period. VISA also says the number of VISA e-commerce transactions increased 46%, generating nearly $338 million in volume, on Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile Wal-Mart reported that Friday sales increased 6.3% to a record $1.52 billion. ShopperTrak estimated that total retail sales for Friday hit $7.2 billion, a 4.8% gain over the same day a year ago.

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BillMatrix Names Chief Technology Officer

Dallas-based BillMatrix has named Robert Stephens, formerly SVP and Director of Information Technologies at Kintetsu Global Information Technologies, as CTO. As Senior Vice President and Director of Information Technologies at Kintetsu Global Information Technologies, Stephens was responsible for the planning, design and deployment of information solutions across a global network of clients and employees at one of the world’s leading freight forwarding companies. Stephens held long-term executive leadership positions at Fritz Companies and Intertrans Corporation, leaders in the global freight industry. He was educated in computer science at the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas and Skyline CDC in Dallas, Texas. BillMatrix Corporation provides outsourced payment services for the nation’s largest companies using the latest automated consumer interface technologies.

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Juniper Bank’s Pinch Yourself Campaign Nabs an Award

Juniper Bank, and its advertising agency, Rapp Collins, have been awarded an “International Silver ECHO Award” for the “Pinch Yourself” direct mail credit card solicitation program. The honor recognizes the creativity and effectiveness of the companies’ direct marketing campaign targeting prospective credit card users. The Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards are a much-sought-after industry honor. Judged in three rounds by direct marketing experts, the international award is the most comprehensive of its kind, rewarding outstanding campaign strategy, creativity and quantifiable results. Juniper aims to make consumers’ lives simpler and easier by giving them greater flexibility and control over their finances. Rapp Collins Worldwide is a world leader in direct marketing services and customer management with more than 2,900 professionals in 70 offices across 33 countries and capitalized billings of $2.4 billion.

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Chase to Acquire Citicorp Electronic Financial Services

J.P. Morgan Chase last week announced an agreement to acquire Citicorp Electronic Financial Services for $380 million in cash. CEFS is a provider of government issued benefits payments and prepaid stored value cards used by state and federal government agencies, as well as stored value services for private institutions. Chase says the acquisition will bolster its position as a leading provider of wholesale payment services. Citigroup says it will remain focused on businesses in which it has a leading market position. Chase expects the deal to close this quarter.

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QSR STV Cards Produce 15% Lift in Average Transactions

OR-based Chockstone reports that its stored value card platform for the QSR industry has produced a 14.5% lift in the average size of consumer transactions, and that QSR locations are experiencing a three- to four-times increase in gift card sales vs. paper gift certificate sales. Chockstone’s integrated platform, ChockPoint, enables retailers to combine payment, loyalty and promotional programs through a single consumer card. Chockstone retailers are experiencing a significant lift in consumer dollars as the transition is made from paper gift certificates to electronic gift-loyalty-marketing cards.

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CASH-BACK

Ryanair has added a cash-back feature to its co-branded VISA card. The “Ryanair.com VISA,” launched in February with MBNA Europe, will now offer up to 10% cash-back on purchases made with the card at participating retailers accessible through the Ryanair online shop. Merchants include: WHSmith, Allsports, Past Times, Thorntons, Toyworld, The Pier and The Perfume Shop.
The “Ryanair.com VISA” is available as a standard or gold credit card. Both cards enable users to earn a bonus flight with the purchase of 10 flights. The standard card carries an APR of 16.9% while the gold card carries an annual interest rate of 14.9%. The Ryanair credits program has been developed and is being run on behalf of Ryanair by the Irish-based marketing company Brandforce.

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Debit Card Exit Fee Dispute Enters the Courtroom

VISA and MasterCard squared-off yesterday before federal Judge Barbara S. Jones over VISA’s newly adopted “Settlement Service Fee” bylaw, which penalizes large debit card issuers for leaving VISA. In September, MasterCard decided to take VISA to federal court after VISA declined to act on its “cease and desist” letter. MasterCard says VISA is changing the rules mid-stream and bullying its members so it becomes virtually impossible for them to switch brands. VISA’s new bylaw imposes huge fines on the top VISA issuers if they switch to MasterCard and/or reduce their VISA debit volume. The “Settlement Service Fee” bylaw requires VISA top off-line debit card members, who switch to a competing off-line debit card, to pay a $20 million fine for each percentage point of lost VISA off-line debit volume. Following the recent settlement of the Wal-Mart litigation, VISA told its top 100 debit issuers that for the next 10 years, they would face significant fines, based on a share of VISA’s $2 billion settlement with the merchants, if they reduced their VISA debit volume from September 30, 2002 levels. Earlier this month VISA announced it will waive its the new bylaw for members switching to American Express or Discover. VISA says that MasterCard’s court motion to stop the exit fee bylaw has absolutely no merit and is purely an opportunistic move by MasterCard to recover from its missteps in the off-line debit card market over the past decade. VISA said MasterCard failed to see the coming explosion in off-line debit.

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ACI Looks to Tap the Greek and Cypriot Banking Markets

ACI Worldwide has formed a new subsidiary in Athens to tap the potential in the Greek and Cypriot banking markets. The Company is already in discussions with the majority of the top tier banks in Greece including National Bank of Greece, EFG Eurobank Ergasias and Commercial Bank of Greece (CBG – Emporiki). The ACI subsidiary in Athens will provide maintenance support for local customers and undertake specific product development for the region. The subsidiary is supported by a 24-hour response team based at ACI’s EMEA headquarters near London, dedicated to providing support to customers across Europe. The new ACI subsidiary in Greece is the ninth regional operation set up by ACI Worldwide in EMEA. Other sites include Germany, Spain, Italy, Middle East (Bahrain), Moscow, South Africa, The Netherlands and the UK.

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