CHIP VENDOR AWARD

VISA’s EU and CEMEA regions have awarded Hypercom the “VISA Chip Vendor of the Year Award” for 2003. Visa EU and CEMEA cited the Hypercom “Crypto Processo” module which allows some of the fastest EMV transactions. Last year, Hypercom became the first card payment vendor to achieve EMV Level 2 certification and the first to certify three card payment terminals to Level 2. Additionally, the company three years ago remotely upgraded its installed base of card payment terminals in the UK with the latest EMV-certified
software applications.

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DISCOVER & BANAMEX

Grupo Financiero Banamex has signed an agreement to expand acceptance of
the “Discover Card” in Mexico. Banamex will activate merchants, initially
in Mexico’s tourist destinations and border crossings, and eventually
throughout all Mexico to take the “Discover Card.” Banamex provides card
acceptance services for more than 20,000 merchants in Mexico. Discover has
more than 4 million merchant and cash access locations in the USA.

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Non-Prime Consolidators

A new survey has found that non-prime consumers are actively taking steps to repair their credit rating and are using home equity loans for debt consolidation. The study of more than 7,000 consumers by PA-based American Business Financial Services, found that among individuals seeking loans, 86% use credit cards, and 45% have more than three credit cards in their name. The majority of these individuals were attempting to lower their debt service costs on credit cards via a single consolidation loan. Of the non-prime consumers who responded to the survey, only 24% have ever worked with a credit counselor. ABFI says it estimates that non-prime borrowers have pumped more than $1 trillion into the economy over the past decade.

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SMART CARD PATENT

The Karauchi International Patent Office of Tokyo announced that Smart Chip Technologies has received approval of its gateway patent that covers the basic business process of storing and redeeming loyalty, rewards, or incentives on any smart card or consumer electronic device. With prior-art dating to 1994, the technology-independent Japanese Patent (7-520773) is based on U.S. Patent 5,806,045 and corresponding patents issued in Australia (703349), Mexico (96/03161), and pending in Canada. SCTN markets its smart card expertise and end-to-end loyalty solution globally to banks, retailers, OEMs, and system integrators. Its products include “e-llegiance” a multi-platform smart chip loyalty application engineered for EMV, Global Platform, and MULTOS compliance to simplify credit/debit card integration.

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GPN & INTESA-BCI

IntesaBci Canada has inked a deal with Global Payments to offer its clients a complete suite of card acceptance services, POS products, credit card processing and account settlement. IntesaBci Canada is a fully owned subsidiary of Milan-based Banca Intesa S.p.A. and has been operating in Canada since 1981. Global Payments is the largest publicly traded, independent VISA and MasterCard acquirer in Canada.

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Discover Mexico

The largest proprietary credit card network in the USA is heading south of the border. Citigroups’s Banamex has inked an agreement to offer Discover Card acceptance throughout Mexico. Initially, Banamex will activate merchants in Mexico’s tourist destinations and border crossings, and eventually throughout the country. Grupo Financiero Banamex currently provides card acceptance services for more than 20,000 merchants in Mexico. Discover currently has more than 4 million merchant and cash access locations in the USA. The issuer says the deal is in response to cardholder requests who want to use their Discover Cards when travelling to Mexico. Banamex has a distribution network of more than 1,400 branches and 4,400 ATM’s located throughout Mexico. Discover is also accepted in some travel related merchants in Canada and the Caribbean.

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Fujitsu & Liz Claiborne

Fresh on the heels of a recent system-wide software upgrade decision, New York-based Liz Claiborne Inc. looks to roll out next-generation, point-of-sale hardware and a managed infrastructure services agreement with Fujitsu Transaction Solutions Inc. Fujitsu will begin outfitting the company’s 300-plus, multi-brand portfolio of U.S. retail locations in a deal that includes hardware, staging, integration, installation and maintenance for more than 1,000 Fujitsu TeamPoS 2000 systems in April.

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Concord Tweaking

Concord EFS has made a change in its accounting process that has no effect on reported operating income, net income, or cash flows but does show better overall margins. The accounting change for signature-based debit card interchange, in response to “EITF 02-16,” requires certain amounts received from vendors to be accounted for as a reduction of the cost of products or services purchased. Therefore, signature debit interchange fees are now presented as a reduction of segment cost of operations, which offsets the amounts paid. Prior to the adoption of “EITF 02-16,” interchange received on signature debit card transactions was included in Network Services segment revenue. Concord management elected to proactively adopt the provisions of “EITF 02-16” in the fourth quarter of 2002 rather than wait till January 1st.

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Sears Impact

While the universe of potential suitors for the Sears MasterCard portfolio is very limited, it could boost the ranking of some issuers and could shift share at the network level. For example, an acquisition by a reinvigorated Bank One would enable it to unseat the slower-growing MBNA as the second largest U.S. issuer, and could potentially enable VISA to regain its #1 position in the credit card market. Bank One currently has $74 billion in outstandings and MBNA has about $80.0 billion. At year-end 2002, the Sears MasterCard portfolio held $12.3 billion in outstandings. If Bank One migrated the portfolio to VISA cards, it would re-establish VISA’s dominance in credit cards. MasterCard currently has an 8.6 million account lead over VISA in the U.S. credit card market. MasterCard also currently holds 8.5 million more credit cards than VISA. At the end of 4Q/02, Sears had more than 20 million accounts and nearly 30 million cards. Other potential buyers of the Sears MasterCard portfolio include Citigroup, Chase, Bank of America, and HSBC/Household.

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