VISA Retail Volume Up 9% in the First Holiday Shopping Week

VISA USA reported this morning that retail spending on VISA cards last week was up 9% over the same period in 2002. VISA data show that spending in discount stores was up nearly 12%, while department store spending was up about 5% during the pre-Thanksgiving week. Total VISA volume for the week was up 14% to more than $19.4 billion. Debit card retail spending was $2.5 billion for the week, an 18% jump over the same year-ago period. Credit card retail spending was up 5% to $4.8 billion. VISA noted that the peak shopping day was Friday, November 21st with VISA volume topping $3.1 billion. The first week of the 2003 holiday shopping season also marked a surge in online shopping compared with the same week last year. VISA says spending in the E-commerce channel was up 49% to more than $1.5 billion. The average ticket price of each online purchase was $75.09 versus $66.59 last year.

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Planet Payment and Fifth Third Team for Currency Conversion

NY-based Planet Payment and Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions have partnered to offer dynamic, currency conversion services to Fifth Third’s merchant customers, particularly those in the retail, hospitality and e-commerce sectors, by the start of the second quarter of next year. It is anticipated that the currency conversion service will be available towards the end of the first quarter 2004. Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions’ new currency conversion service identifies a transaction from a merchant’s foreign customer and displays the transaction in the customer’s local currency before the customer has completed the transaction. Planet Payment has become a market leader in the burgeoning new field of POS, or “dynamic”, currency conversion, a service in which a credit card transaction is converted from the currency in which the merchant offers its goods into the currency in which the customers’ credit card is billed at the time of sale. Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions is one of the nation’s largest providers of credit, debit, EBT, ACH and check acceptance services.

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JCB Adopts 3-D Secure, Rolls-Out J/Secure

As “Verified by VISA” and “MasterCard SecureCode” slowly gain acceptance by cardholders, JCB has launched its own Internet authentication program. JCB’s new ” J/Secure,” is compliant with the “3-D Secure” protocol and, like other authentication schemes, adds a password identification step to the traditional online shopping process. JCB says several vendors are already prepared to provide “J/Secure” software and many others are developing “J/Secure” solutions that will be subject to testing by JCB. Currently, JCB’s merchant network includes nearly 11 million merchants with cards issued in 18 countries. There are 48.4 million JCB cardholders worldwide. VISA said Monday that its “Verified by VISA” Internet authentication service, which is also based on “3-D Secure,” has been adopted by more than 8,000 VISA payment card issuers from around the world. More than 100 vendors currently support “Verified by VISA” today and 40 have passed VISA’s 3-D compliance test program and can offer 3-D compliant solutions to merchants and issuers around the world. MasterCard’s “SecureCode” program has signed up 2,511 card issuers and 123 acquirers worldwide to-date. More than 9,000 merchants worldwide are now participating in the program. Additionally, MasterCard has signed “SecureCode” agreements with 115 technology vendors to license the specification for integration with pre-existing security solutions or for standalone applications.

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Banks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to Jointly Issue Credit Card

Bank of Shanghai is reportedly in discussions with Hong Kong-based Shanghai Commercial Bank and Taiwan-based Shanghai Commercial and Savings Bank to jointly issue one credit card. The new card, subject to regulatory approval, will carry the same brand in all locations. The Shanghai Daily says the new card will target frequent travelers, especially senior corporate executives who often make business trips in the three areas. The newspaper says the partnership will help the three medium-sized banks to compete with stronger rivals in their respective markets.

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PRE Solutions Expands Prepaid Card Offerings

Atlanta-based PRE Solutions has added “Moviso Prepaid Ringtone Cards” to its product portfolio. Different ringtones are available in the following categories: Hip Hop/R&B, Rock, Movie & TV, Pop and Alternative music. Each Moviso ringtone card includes a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that can be used to download popular songs to a phone over the Web or WAP interface or a 1-800 number. PRE Solutions will be offering Moviso prepaid ringtone cards for $4.99, which includes two polyphonic or three monophonic ringtones. Moviso PINs are valid for 180 days. PRE Solutions, Inc. is a leading provider of prepaid transaction processing solutions designed to offer retailers powerful revenue opportunities in the prepaid products and services category.

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NexTran Takes Over EZ Cash ATMs in NYC

NJ-based NexTran Industries and its affiliated company, Money Marketing, have signed a terminal management agreement to operate EZ Cash’s 400 ATMs installed in the metropolitan New York area. The EZ Cash turnkey management agreement may serve as a model for other independent sales organizations like EZ Cash, Park speculated. NexTran Industries, Inc. ([www.nextran.net][1]) is a full-service supplier of ATM technology and solutions. Money Marketing Inc. ([www.moneymarketingatm.com][2]) is a full-service supplier of transaction processing and ATM cash management services.

[1]: http://www.nextran.net
[2]: http://www.moneymarketingatm.com

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FTC Gets TRO Against Florida Platinum Card Marketer

The Federal Trade Commission has obtained a temporary restraining order against a Hollywood, Florida-based marketer of “Platinum” credit cards. The FTC says Platinum Universal, LLC, and its successor, Pulsar Data, marketing cards under the “Universal Card Services” and “Universal MasterCard” brand names, falsely represented to consumers that they would obtain a credit card after paying a fee, when, in fact, consumers did not receive a credit card. The fee charged for the card ranged from $99 to $200. The FTC says that consumers who paid the advance fee, did not receive the promised credit card. Instead, some consumers received a “stored value” card, while others received nothing at all. In some instances, the defendants send instructions to consumers on how to obtain the stored value card. None of the consumers receive the promised “Universal MasterCard” credit card, the FTC alleges. The FTC noted that the firm mostly targeted the Hispanic community.The investigation was supported by the BBB of Southeast Florida, the BBB of West Florida, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Florida Division Headquarters and the Hollywood Police Department.

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Capital One and Consumer Action Send Bankruptcy Message

The nation’s second largest issuer of sub-prime bank credit cards has teamed with a San Francisco-based non-profit consumer advocacy group to warn consumers about the long-term negative impact of filing personal bankruptcy. Capital One and Consumer Action have developed a guide, “Your Right to a Financial Fresh Start”, that discusses the legal process and implications of filing bankruptcy. Consumer Action says the guide provides a checklist of questions consumers should be asking themselves before they consider declaring bankruptcy. Capital One says the pamphlet is designed to guide consumers through the complexities and help them fully understand — and hopefully avoid — the serious measure of filing bankruptcy. The document is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese. Capital One and Consumer Action have formed an extensive relationship. Both concerns have been holding consumer financial management seminars for non-profit community groups this year throughout the country. (CF Library 11/19/03)

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SHAZAM’s Gift Card Program Gets ICEd

The SHAZAM network is deploying Hypercom’s “ICE Plus” card payment terminals and technology in support of SHAZAM’s new prepaid gift card program. SHAZAM’s gift card program provides a cost-effective solution for independent merchants. Merchants using the gift card program receive the functionality they need, along with a turnkey implementation. Merchants also benefit from lower administrative costs, increased efficiency and convenient electronic handling, recording and reporting. The SHAZAM network was founded in 1976 by community financial institutions wanting a voice in the delivery of electronic convenience to their customers. Hypercom’s products include secure web-enabled information and transaction terminals that work seamlessly with its networking equipment and software applications for e-commerce, m-commerce, smart cards and traditional payment applications.

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Black Friday Shoppers to Spend $1K On Gift This Year

The “2003 American Express Retail Index on Holiday Shopping” shows that “Black Friday” shoppers plan to spend $1,086 for gifts this holiday season. The overwhelming majority of shoppers (85%) say that they shop on Black Friday for the sales and to get the best prices. Others go simply to browse (50%), to get the most popular, must-have items (33%), because it’s a family tradition (33%) and still others genuinely enjoy the excitement of being in the stores that day (29%). The American Express Retail Index on holiday shopping was conducted by telephone between October 20, 2003 and October 28, 2003 and surveyed 803 heads of households, age 18 and older. American Express Company is a diversified worldwide travel and financial services company founded in 1850.

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Home Depot is Sued Over Free Card Loan Offers

Home Depot is being sued over its offering payment and interest-free periods on purchases made with in-store credit cards. Hagens Berman has filed suit in Washington and California allegeing that Home Depot violated California’s “Business and Professions Code” and Washington’s “Consumer Protection Act” by hiding the fact that consumers would be unable to pay off any existing or future balances without first paying off the interest-free promotional purchase. The practice is also widely used by VISA and MasterCard issuers who make 0% APR offers. Hagens Berman says thousands of California and Washington consumers have been duped into signing up for the retail store’s credit card as a result of these promotions. The law firm also sued Lowe’s in Washington for a similar offer. The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court and in King County Superior Court seek class action status.

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