Points International and American Airlines Expand Deal

Toronto-based Points International announced a comprehensive agreement with American Airlines. The agreement builds upon an existing relationship through which Points has developed a growing suite of solutions to enhance the “AAdvantage” program and extends a number of existing short-term agreements through December 31, 2007, including those for “pointsxchange,” “pointspurchase,” and “pointstransfer.” In addition, Points and American Airlines will jointly commit to co-market loyalty offerings to millions of “AAdvantage” members over the next
five years.

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VISA Smart Breakthrough Signs Second Vendor

UbiQ, a specialist in high-volume smart card personalization, has joined the “VISA Smart Breakthrough Turnkey Personalization Program.” UbiQ is the second vendor to join the program. The solution is being offered primarily in geographic markets outside the USA and to banks that are migrating to “Visa Smart Debit/Credit.” The new solution is designed for member banks seeking to control the personalization process in-house. It is targeted for low and medium volume issuance launches and is scalable to large volume smart card issuance. In addition to their complete turnkey personalization package, UbiQ also offers a pilot solution and a software-only offering, enabling VISA member banks to use a personalization equipment of their choice ranging from low volume to high volume capacity. The “Visa Smart Breakthrough” global initiative was launched three years ago.

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MasterCard Offers Canadians a Free Equifax Credit Report

MasterCard Canada this week launched “Credit Report Week” and is offering Canadians an Equifax credit report at no charge. The special offer will end Sunday, September 14th at 11:59 p.m. Under Canadian law, Canadians are entitled to see the information that Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada has about them. Basic credit reports are always available free by mail or in-person from both credit agencies. Online credit reports, however, are available for a fee. For example, Equifax Canada’s online report costs $14.50. MasterCard is limiting the fee offer to the first 10,000 consumers through the Be Credit Wise credit education center at www.mastercard.ca/creditwise.

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Hypercom Terminals Become PayPass Ready

Hypercom is joining the MasterCard’s “PayPass” contactless payment program. Orlando-based Fazoli’s Italian restaurants will deploy Hypercom’s solution. Going forward, Hypercom’s “ICE 5500Plus” and “ICE 6000Plus” terminals will incorporate a special antenna and reader to offer merchants a seamless, fully integrated solution for MasterCard “PayPass.” In addition, retailers like Fazoli’s with existing Hypercom terminals can add an auxiliary RF reader with virtually no changes necessary. MasterCard “PayPass” is currently being trialed with three of MasterCard’s key member financial institutions in a pilot that involves more than 16,000 cardholders and approximately 60 merchant locations in Orlando.

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CIBC Extends E-mail Money Transfer to Charitable Donations

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and CIBC are extending E-mail money transfer to include charitable donations. CIBC will donate $1.50 to CBCF for every Email Money Transfer donated by a CIBC customer. Last year, four of Canada’s Big Five banks launched Email Money Transfers as a way for Canadians to send money to each other directly out of their bank accounts and using only an email address. The annual Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation “CIBC Run for the Cure” is the largest single-day fundraising event in Canada dedicated to breast cancer and will be held this year on October 5, in 36 communities across the country.

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EXTORTIONATE CARD RATES

Private label store card giant GE Consumer Finance, and other retail credit card issues in the UK, are coming under fire for continuing to charge interest rates as high as 32.5%, even though the Bank of England base rate has dropped to 3.5%. The Office of Fair Trading this week called the rates “extortionate” and has launched an informal inquiry into retail credit cards following complaints from Members of Parliament.

The OFT suggested that stiff fines could be imposed on the issuers. The OFT will grill bank industry leaders in a hearing next month. Several weeks ago, the Treasury Select Committee held a hearing over retail credit cards and accused the industry of “highway robbery” given that the Bank of England base rate has fallen from 7.0% in 1999 to 3.5% currently. The Commons Treasury Select Committee found that the average rate of interest for retail cards is about 29%, and is relatively unchanged since 1999. The highest rate of 32.5%, was charged for the Toys ‘R’ Us credit card.

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AsiaPay Launches a Secure Payment Gateway Solution

AsiaPay has launched “PayDollar PayGate,” a secure, payment gateway solution. This function-rich and user friendly electronic
payment-processing platform also provides readily multi-lingual capabilities support, multiple payment modes, with open and easy to deploy seamless interface integration with merchant sites of any industries. Furthermore, the platform also provides a variety of value-add features on payment risk control and support on latest security standards including VISA’s “Verified By VISA.” Currently, this payment-processing platform is serving over 400 merchants of Citibank and Wing Hang Bank.

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SureFire Commerce Named Canadian Technology Fast 50

SureFire Commerce has been named to Deloitte & Touche’s “Canadian Technology Fast 50” awards program. SureFire Commerce processes credit card, cheque and direct deposit payments for businesses around the world, via Internet, mail order-telephone order and point of sale transactions. Since its founding, the company has processed in excess of $3 billion in transaction value.

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AmEx Has Nearly 21.5 Million Reward Cards

American Express said this week that reward penetration across its U.S. consumer and small business cardsoinoforce base has increased from 31% in 1998 to 60% in 2003. The issuer said it intends to keep a strong focus on further leveraging this competitive advantage. The AmEx cash rebate products have been the most successful, while the new “Green” and “Gold” rewards programs have also experienced a strong response over the past year. AmEx also noted this week that despite the volume hits caused by the September 11th terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq and SARS, travel continues to deliver good profits. AmEx says its onoline capabilities, and its priceoforoservice approach, have produced a model that is more adaptable to the sales volatility realized over the last two years. In terms of volume growth, AmEx says it has performed better than the industry average, delivering higher growth than all but one competitor. Globally, AmEx now has proprietary card activities in 73 countries and 20 currencies, and network card relationships across 88 markets. At midoyear, American Express had 35.7 million total cardsoinoforce in the USA, according to CardData (www.carddata.com).

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