Charming Shoppes Card Bond Ratings Reaffirmed

Moody’s Investor Service has reaffirmed the ratings on $200 million of Charming Shoppes credit card securitizations. In June, Moody’s cited concerns over servicing procedures and reports by Spirit of America, the servicer, pertaining to the credit card trust. Moody’s then placed the securities issued by the trust on “Watch” for possible downgrade. However, the problems with Spirit have since been resolved and there were no investor losses. Spirit has also contracted Wachovia to validate and recalculate material line-items in the monthly servicer reports. Charming Shoppes is the largest plus-size specialty apparel retailer in America, with over 2,200 stores nationwide. (CF Library 6/25/03)

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SmarTrip Greenlighted for Regional Expansion

The Washington (DC) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has given the go-ahead to ERG Group and Northrop Grumman to build the “SmarTrip Regional Customer Service Center.” As a result, residents of the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia metro area will soon be able to use a single smart card to pay fares across 17 transit systems. The “SmarTrip” system is expected to grow to a card base of more than one million over a five-year period. ERG will be responsible for the management of smart cards and operation of the data processing system incorporating clearing, settlement and financial management. Northrop Grumman will be responsible for the distribution of smart cards and operation of the customer service center.

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Target’s School Fundraising Tops $27 MM for 2003

Target announced yesterday it has awarded more than $13 million to schools this month, the second payout this year of its “Target School Fundraising” program which currently has 8 million enrolled customers, whereby 1.0% of Target purchases on Target’s “smart VISA” card and Target’s “Guest Card”, along with 0.5% of all other Target “smart VISA” purchases are donated to designated K-12 schools.

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United Overseas Bank Launches a Real VISA Mini Card

United Overseas Bank Ltd. has launched a “VISA Mini” credit card with a “MINI” car promotion in Singapore. Applicants for the miniature VISA card are entered into a contest to win a “MINI One” or a “MINI Cooper S” automobile. Applicants receive 10 chances to win when they apply, and one extra chance with each $50 outstanding on the statement. The bank is also offering various electronic gadgets for referrals. UOB says it expects to issue 100,000 “VISA Mini” cards by next September. Meanwhile, UOB has also launched a “VISA Infinite” credit card.

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BART Finally Decides to Join the TransLink Smart Card System

San Francisco’s BART has finally decided to go forward with joining the “TransLink” smart card program. The decision follows an agreement reached last week with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The MTC agreed to fund some of cost of upgrading the BART ticket system. Under terms of the agreement, BART will be able to continue to offer the 6.25% discount currently available to its high value ticket customers with the regional smart card. The deal will also enable BART customers to add value into the “TransLink” cards in BART stations from the ticket vending machines. The “TransLink” system will be the largest regional smart card based transit fare collection system in the USA. It will provide a single payment system encompassing all major transit systems operating in the Bay Area, including buses, ferries, and light, medium and heavy rail systems. When fully operational, “TransLink” is expected to handle more than 25 million smart card transactions every month. The program has been in a pilot since January 2002. (CF Library 8/28/03)

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SAFE-SEND EXPANDS

Santander Serfin and Bank of America have added the “VISA Electron” symbol to their “SafeSend” ATM transfer card. The upgrade will enable cardholders to now use “SafeSend” cards in more than 120,000 stores in Mexico. The two banks also announced that customers in the U.S will now be able to view the exact amount of money available in pesos at the time funds are added to the card, since the exchange rate is applied when funds are loaded to the card. Bank of America introduced the “SafeSend” product in April 2002 to enable Hispanic U.S. customers to make money available to friends and family in Mexico through ATMs. Fees for ATM transactions are waived when customers use any of Santander Serfin’s 1,800 ATMs within Mexico. Bank of America Corporation acquired 24.9% of Grupo Financiero Santander Serfin in March.

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Metris Unloads $550 MM in CDs to Conform with OCC Request

In a move to further satisfy regulators, Metris Companies announced Friday the sale of $550 million in federally insured deposits at Direct Merchants Credit Card Bank. The OCC requested the bank to sell its brokered and retail jumbo certificates of deposit by September 30th to eliminate the risk to the FDIC. The OCC extended the deadline to October 10th. Metris will take a third-quarter 2003 pre-tax charge of approximately $30 million due to the sale. On Thursday of last week, Metris announced it will cut 25% of its senior management team. (CF Library 9/26/03)

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