BabyMint Adds Miles/Points Transfer Program

Atlanta-based Vesdia says it is adding a new option to its “BabyMint” college savings accelerator program that will enable members to convert the value of their miles or points in multiple airline, hotel, and retailer rewards programs into the their “529” college savings plan or “Coverdell” educational savings account. The “BabyMint” program currently limits members to earning rebates via a network of more than 500 merchants. Vesdia also has a co-branded “BabyMint” credit card with MBNA that provides additional rebates. The new option for miles/points is the result of a deal with Toronto-based Points International. Through the new partnership “BabyMint” participants will have the ability to redeem miles and points from America West Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific and InterContinental Hotels into their “BabyMint” rebate point account. Vesdia also expects to provide the points conversion enhancement to participants in its “NestEggz” retirement savings program.

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SM@RT-TAN CARD READER

Ismaning-based SCM Microsystems has introduced a new smart card reader that generates a single-use “TransAction Number” automatically, eliminating the need to keep a manual “TAN” list. The new “Sm@rtTAN Card Reader” can also read cash balances on the German “GeldKarte” cash card. The pocket-sized card reader operates independently from a computer platform and needs no additional power supply. The reader operates with smart cards carrying an “EMV” chip based on the “SECCOS” software platform. The “SECCOS” platform combines “GeldKarte” functions with PKI technology to enable a wide spectrum of secure applications, including international debit transactions, Internet cash download and online banking. “GeldKarte” is carried by 60 million consumers in Germany.

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AmEx, Fleet, Discover Web Sites Rank Best Overall

A California research firm has ranked the Web sites of American Express, Fleet, and Discover Card as the top three in providing the best overall online consumer experience. Vividence says Fleet, MBNA and American Express performed the best in terms of potential to acquire new customers through their Web sites. However, Chase, Fleet, and Discover Card did the best job of driving online usage. Vividence says it monitored 2,000 prospective customers as they interacted with credit card Web sites and performed tasks such as applying for credit cards and exploring services offered online. Besides an aggregate of site performance across hundreds of metrics, the Company’s indices also ranked the credit card sites in terms of customer satisfaction, customer acquisition, online adoption and brand impact. Vividence also found that 50% of consumers who have two or more credit cards, are eager to use online credit card services to check account balances, receive billing statements and perform self-service tasks. More than 75% of users in the study reported accessing a credit card account online, and almost 50% use one of their credit card’s sites at least once a week. Vividence also noted that credit card sites consistently posed more frequent problems than their banking site counterparts. On average, consumers experienced a problem every 2 minutes on credit card sites.

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MasterCard OneSMART Adds M/Chip Deployment Program and Pre-Configured Packages

MasterCard International is now working on twice as many smart card projects as one-year ago. Of the more than 400 individual MasterCard smart card implementations underway around the world, half involve issuers in Europe. However, the strongest activity is in Asia-Pacific where the number of EMV smart cards has hit 14.5 million, double last year’s figure. The worldwide smart card migration is driven by decisions made by MasterCard’s regional boards in Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean, and South Asia and Middle East Africa. All of these boards have recently enacted intra-regional liability shift policies calling for the full-scale adoption of smart cards and chip terminals in the 2005 and 2006 time period. Last year, MasterCard announced “OneSMART MasterCard,” a comprehensive, global support program covering every aspect necessary to successfully launch smart cards. Expanding on this, MasterCard this week unveiled a subset of the “OneSMART MasterCard,” called the “M/Chip Deployment Program,” which provides a complete solution for MasterCard’s customers who are migrating their payment cards from the magnetic stripe platform to chip. Companies supporting the “M/Chip 4” program include: Ingenico, Austria Card, Gemplus, Giesecke & Devrient and Setec. The “OneSMART MasterCard” program was also recently expanded with a range of pre-configured smart card packages including: “OneSMART MasterCard Payment” which provides an enhanced payment application; “OneSMART MasterCard Authentication” which ensures a higher level of security for online shopping and remote banking; and “OneSMART MasterCard Web” that allows cardholders to securely store and manage a wide range of personal data (such as names, addresses, URLs, log-on passwords) on the smart card chip.

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Metris Gets Negative Rating After 10Q Delay

Metris Companies has been placed on Fitch Ratings’ “Rating Watch Negative” list following Metris announcement this week that its external auditor has cited material weakness surrounding internal controls around the valuation of the company’s retained interest in securitized assets, and Metris’ delay in filing its quarterly 10-Q. Fitch’s Rating Watch reflects the uncertainty around this recently identified issue, and the ultimate impact on Metris’ financial condition and liquidity.

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Sao Paulo Selects Gemplus to Deploy an Smart Card-Based Fare System

Sao Paulo Transporte S.A. has selected Gemplus’ “GemEasy8000” cards for the city’s new contactless ticketing system. Gemplus BankNote will initially deploy 2.5 million such cards in Sao Paulo to students, pensioners and employees that receive corporate-sponsored travel passes. Students and pensioners currently travel free under government regulations, and Brazilian
companies are also legally obliged to subsidize 100% of employees’ public transport costs. Approximately 16,000 vehicles in Sao Paulo are being equipped with smart card readers that will enable faster and more efficient fare checking. The public bus transportation system in Sao Paulo is one of the world’s busiest networks, serving over five million commuters every day. The system will go live in 2004.

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Arthur Blank Nails Two Card-Related Patents

Boston-based Arthur Blank & Co. has received two new patents covering a one piece hangtag and combination card, and keytag sets, as well as a method of manufacturing transaction items of varying kinds so that they are accurately numbered and uniquely produced in exact sequential order. U.S. Patent No. 6,588,658 dated July 8, 2003, entitled “Transaction Card with Attached Auxiliary Members” relates to a one piece hangtag and combination card, and keytag sets. U.S. Patent No. 6,592,035 dated July 15, 2003, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Rapid, Serial Transaction Item Fabrication” relates to a method of manufacturing transaction items of varying kinds so that they are accurately numbered and uniquely produced in exact sequential order. Arthur Blank & Co., Inc., located at 225 Rivermoor Street, Boston, MA 02132, specializes in all facets of custom printed plastic cards.

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VISA Smart Adds More Partners and Launches VISA Smart POS

VISA International now has 19 technology partners in its “VISA Smart Global Partners” program, which is part of the comprehensive “VISA Smart” initiative. VISA reported it now has nearly 100 million EMV smart cards in circulation worldwide, and that the number of deployed EMV-capable acceptance devices has approached two million. Among the vendors making special smart card-related offers for products and services to VISA members are: Barnes International; ICC Solutions; Axalto; Orga; Bell ID; CardBASE; STMicroelectronics; DataCard Group; NBS; Thales e-Security; UbiQ Incorporated; ACI; Gemplus, Giesecke & Devrient; Oberthur Card Systems; NCR; Oasis Technology; SAGEM; and, Welcome Real-time. VISA International also this week announced the launch of “VISA Smart POS,” a low-cost software solution that dramatically reduces the time-to-market of EMV chip acceptance by up to 12 months. The “EMV Level 2” software module is available royalty-free to acquirers, merchants, and vendors. VISA says that small to medium-sized merchants in geographic markets that are committing to EMV chip migration face time-to-market, cost, and implementation challenges that are difficult to overcome using proprietary technology from multiple POS vendors. “VISA Smart POS” requires minimal changes to back office systems and is available for any POS device. Also, POS vendors can overcome the cost of EMV software development and compliance, and these savings can be passed on to merchants. “VISA Smart POS” is written in the industry-standard C++ and Java programming languages with written drivers for “Windows 2000.”

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Online Micropayments Set for Take-Off in 2004

MA-based Peppercoin released a survey that shows 17% of executives it surveyed indicated they expect to generate between $1-10 million in micropayment revenue over the next twelve months, while more than 70% expect to generate less than $1 million via micropayments in the next year. The Company also separately announced that a record label based in Boston will sell the songs from a new rock band album via the Internet, using Peppercoin’s micropayment system. BIG FRANK Records will sell the songs from Catapult’s new CD for 25 cents to 50 cents each. Peppercoin says its survey of 170 senior executives shows that 64% identified online music as offering the greatest potential for micropayments, followed by online games, publishing and video on demand. One fourth of the respondents identified consumer demand as the most significant challenge to be overcome to drive the growth of micropayments. Respondents cited “ease of deployment” and “integration with existing systems” as the most significant enablers for micropayments.

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Secure Payment Systems Snags Anderson

San Diego-based Secure Payment Systems has hired Kim Anderson, formerly of eFunds and Certegy Check Services, lo lead its growth in new key markets. Anderson has over 20 years of senior management and strategic marketing experience in transaction processing, risk management and business processing outsourcing. Prior to 2002, Anderson served as president, Retail and Ecommerce Division for publicly traded eFunds Corporation, a $500 million financial services organization providing transaction processing and risk management solutions. Secure Payment Systems, Inc. (SPS) ([www.securepaymentsystems.com][1]) was founded in 1996 by Linden (Lin) Fellerman, former 20 year employee and 10 year President of the Telecredit / Equifax Check Services subsidiaries.

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

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FTC Gets Tough on Credit Counseling Firms

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday filed a lawsuit against Maryland-based AmeriDebt, DebtWorks, and its founders, for misrepresentation of their non-profit status and for deceptive business practices. The FTC charged that the credit-counseling service is setup to make money for affiliated for-profit companies and individuals, rather than operating for charitable purposes. The FTC also alleges that the defendants charged an up-front fee to consumers enrolling in a debt management plan, despite claims to the contrary in their advertising. The companies were also cited for violating the “GLB” Act by failing to provide consumers with the required privacy notices. The attorneys general of Minnesota and Texas are in the process of filing a suit against AmeriDebt. Earlier this year, the attorneys general of Illinois and Missouri filed suits against AmeriDebt. AmeriDebt said Wednesday it will defend itself vigorously against the FTC complaint. On November 1st, the firm says it stopped enrolling new consumer clients and it suspended all television, radio and Internet outreach aimed at attracting new consumer clients. The FTC also confirmed Wednesday that it has reached a settlement with Ballenger Group for its role in the AmeriDebt operation. Ballenger acted as the servicer for AmeriDebt’s DMPs since the beginning of this year. The FTC says Ballenger was closely associated with the other defendants and that it repeated some of AmeriDebt’s misrepresentations in direct statements to consumers on the telephone. Ballenger agreed to pay $750,000 in consumer redress.

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eFunds Unveils IST/AllCard for Multi-Card Issuing

AZ-based eFunds has unveiled “IST/AllCard,” a flexible card issuing product designed to meet current market demands for multi-card issuing and management that also completes the recently launched Oasis “ecoPay” solution suite, which provides complete, pre-integrated solutions for card issuers, processors and payment networks. IST/AllCard addresses these needs by providing a flexible, multi-card issuing solution designed for the most intensive card issuing businesses. Whether issuing cards for single or multiple institutions, IST/AllCard provides a flexible, configuration-based system that helps to reduce the time required to bring new card products to market. eFunds Corporation is an industry leader with nearly 30 years of experience and expertise in electronic payments.

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