AmEx Offers Gulfstream Perk to Select Cardholders

Some American Express cardholders will soon be able to get a 15% discount off their first flight with an exclusive charter used by Hollywood celebrities and insiders. AmEx has inked a deal with Trans-Exec Air Service, an all-Gulfstream charter service, for the special promotion. The company’s fleet of high-end Gulfstreams is noted for having some of the lowest flight hours in the industry since only four clients are allowed per aircraft.


NOVA Buys NCF’s Merchant Portfolio

Memphis-based National Commerce Financial Corporation has sold its merchant payment processing portfolio to NOVA Information Systems. NCF’s has nearly 10,000 active merchants in its portfolio that includes credit and debit card processing, electronic check services, and other value-added services. NCF’s merchant annual sales volume is about $1 billion annually. Under the terms of the agreement, merchant processing will be offered by NOVA to existing customers of NCF, and NCF will jointly market merchant processing with NOVA to prospective merchants. The NCF merchant processing business operates through NCF bank brands National Bank of Commerce and Central Carolina Bank. NOVA Information Systems is a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp and provides processing services to more than 650,000 merchant locations in the USA and Europe.



Dione’s “Xtreme” PIN pad and “IC-Xpress” swipe & park card reader have passed “VISA’s PIN Entry Device Offline” security requirements. Significantly the terminals have been successfully tested both for “Enciphered” PIN and “Plaintext” PIN, a mandatory requirement in the UK. Cards issued in the UK operate with “Plaintext” PIN as opposed to “Enciphered” PIN, so gaining VISA “PED Offline” approval does not necessarily protect the merchant if the terminal has only been assessed for “Enciphered” PIN. The Dione terminals are capable of dealing with both, offering complete “Chip & PIN” capability.


VISA’s Interlink Transactions Soar as PLUS Transactions Sink

While the number of transactions on VISA’s “PLUS” ATM network in the USA dropped 21% in the second quarter, VISA’s “Interlink” PIN POS network transaction dollar volume has soared by 32%. VISA processed more than 240 million “Interlink” transactions in 2Q/03, a 29% jump over year-ago levels, driven by a solid increase in the number of merchant acceptance locations. “PLUS” transactions declined 21% to 127 million for the second quarter. Approximate dollar volume for “Interlink” POS transactions during the second quarter was $8.4 billion, a 32% increase over 2Q/02. The number of “Interlink” merchant locations now exceeds one million, a 27% expansion over 2Q/02. At mid-year the number of cards carrying the “Interlink” brand was up 13% to 70 million. The number of “PLUS” ATMs was up a mere 3% to 364,000. For complete details on VISA’s second quarter performance visit CardData (


Credit Card Account Gap Widens Between VISA and MasterCard

In terms of cards issued, VISA has picked up the lead again in the U.S. credit card horse race, after falling behind MasterCard for three consecutive quarters. However, based on the number of domestic credit card accounts, MasterCard has widened its lead to 15 million accounts after first surpassing VISA in 3Q/02. At the end of 2Q/03, VISA had 270.5 million domestic credit cards-in-force, compared to MasterCard’s 269.1 million. In the third quarter of 2002, MasterCard pulled ahead of VISA with 264.2 million cards versus VISA’s 259.0 million cards, according to CardData ([][1]). MasterCard maintained its lead by 8.5 million cards in the fourth quarter of last year, and by 1.6 million in the first quarter of this year. Based on the number of U.S. credit card accounts, MasterCard now has 211.8 million compared to VISA’s 196.8 million. In 3Q/02, MasterCard pulled past VISA by 5.1 million accounts. The gap widened by 8.6 million accounts in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter of this year, MasterCard had 208.4 million accounts compared to VISA’s 200.9 million. VISA has steadily been losing credit card accounts for the past 18 months. However, VISA has always dominated MasterCard in credit card volume. For example, VISA’s second quarter volume was $158.8 billion compared to MasterCard’s $125.8 billion. For complete details on VISA’s and MasterCard’s second quarter performance visit CardData ([][2]).

Quarterly V/M Credit Card Accounts (millions)
2Q/03 1Q/03 4Q/02 3Q/02 2Q/02 1Q/02
VISA: 196.8 200.9 201.4 203.3 204.4 206.6
MasterCard: 211.8 208.4 210.0 208.4 198.9 190.5
TOTAL: 408.6 409.3 411.4 411.7 403.3 397.1
Source: CardData (