AmEx Intl

American Express’ international payment card business is now growing at nearly double the AmEx domestic pace. At the end of the first quarter, American Express had 22.4 million cards-in-force outside the USA, a 7.8% increase over 1Q/02. International charge volume for 1Q/03 hit $19.9 billion, a 15% surge over the same period one year ago. In the USA, during the same period, American Express cards were up 1.7%, and volume increased 8.4%. During the first quarter AmEx launched the “Gold Credit Card” in Indonesia, and began issuing the “Centurion Card” in Japan. The company also signed a network partnership agreement with Vietcombank to issue the “Green Credit Card” and “Gold Credit Card” in Vietnam. Earlier this year, AmEx partnered with TD Bank Financial Group in Canada to become the exclusive provider of corporate cards to TD’s commercial and corporate banking customers. The company also opened a Shanghai business travel center in China.

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TSYS Buys ESC

TSYS has acquired Roswell, GA-based Enhancement Services Corporation. ESC provides targeted loyalty consulting and travel, as well as gift card and merchandise reward programs to more than 40 national and regional financial institutions in the USA. TSYS says the acquisition fulfills a strategic objective, making it possible for TSYS to offer a fully integrated solution that builds on loyalty programs inherent in its processing systems. Steven Wilson, ESC president and CEO, will continue to manage the day-to-day operations of the TSYS wholly owned subsidiary.

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Spiegel Cards

The Spiegel Group confirmed Monday it has inked an agreement for Alliance Data Systems to establish a new private-label credit card program for its merchant divisions. ADS will issue new Eddie Bauer, Spiegel Catalog and Newport News credit cards next month. The new credit card program will be separate from and have no relation to The Spiegel Group’s existing or prior credit card programs, and there would be no transfer of existing receivables. Under the proposed agreement, Alliance Data will establish credit criteria for account acquisition, issuing and activating new cards, extending credit to new cardholders, authorizing purchases made with the new cards, customer care and billing and remittance services. Spiegel is currently in bankruptcy.

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Cap One MilesOne

Capital One announced it has revamped its “MilesOne Rewards” card. In addition to earning miles for airline travel, consumers now have a choice of redeeming miles for one percent cash-back, electronics and merchandise, gift certificates at select merchants or donations to a charitable organization. Under the “MilesOne” program, miles are redeemable on any U.S.-based airline, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions. The new cash-back feature enables cardholders to earn one-percent cash back for miles. Miles can also be redeemed miles for gift certificates from retailers such as Banana Republic, Bloomingdales and J. Crew. Miles can be donated to charities such as the Habitat for Humanity; Christian Children’s Fund; United States fund for UNICEF; or St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The card was first introduced in 1998.

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HERO HONDA CARD

New Delhi-based Hero Honda Motor Ltd., GE Capital India, and the State Bank of India have teamed to launch a co-branded credit card. The new “Hero Honda SBI VISA Card” will initially be marketed to Hero Honda’s seven million customers. Hero Honda is India’s largest two-wheeler maker with annual sales of 1.7 million units. SBI Cards is a joint venture between SBI and GE Capital. SBI Cards currently has 300,000 classic VISA credit cards issued across 25 cities in India. The card will feature no annual fee for the first year, no transaction fees at IOC and IBP petrol pumps on fuel purchases of over Rs 250, and a one-year road accident insurance of Rs 100,000.

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FREESTAR TRANSFER

FreeStar Technology Corporation, a processor of ATM and debit card transactions via the Internet, with corporate headquarters in Santo Domingo, and offices in Dublin, Ireland and Helsinki, Finland, is being acquired by FreeStar Acquisition Corporation. The deal is valued at $75 million in cash or US$0.49 per share. Consummation of the merger is expected to occur during the third quarter.

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