Debt Dampens Travel

Another credit counseling firm has joined the wave of commissioning consumer surveys. MD-based AmeriDebt says its survey, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, found that debt and job loss worries are a bigger concern than terrorism for Americans who are scaling down or dropping their 2002 summer vacation plans. According to the ORC findings, of those Americans who say they will spend less or otherwise scale back their 2002 summer vacation plans, nearly three out of 10 (28%) will do so because they are at or near credit card limits or otherwise too deeply in debt (17%), or recently out of work or worried about a layoff (17%). These purely economic concerns compare to the 19% who cited terrorism concerns, including driving because of a terrorism-related fear of flying (16%), or just generally staying closer to home due to terrorist threats (12%). Credit cards will finance almost 40% of summer vacations this year. Nearly two out of five Americans (38%) will use their credit card to pay for at least some of their summer vacation this year. Of those using credit cards, one in five (18%) plan to put over half the cost of their vacation on credit cards.

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SMARTCARD 2003

The 15th SmartCard exhibition and conference has been scheduled for London next February. Netherlands-based Turret RAI plc is producing the event and has hired a new management team to oversee the conference. Albert Andoh has become event manager after six years at SmartCard News. He will be joined by Sarah Williams, event director; Clare Hillier, account manager; and Linda Roe, marketing manager.
The 2003 event will focus on these three areas: Developing Smart Card Technology; Smart Card Products & Systems and Smart Card Solutions.

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PegsPay

Pegasus has launched PegsPay, an ASP-based service for travel businesses which automates the exchange of funds and incentives between travel distributors such as tour operators, online net rate providers, consolidators and wholesalers, and any type of travel supplier, including hotels, rental cars, airlines, railways, and cruise lines. PegsPay is designed for travel distributors that employ the merchant model. Under the merchant model, travel distributors such as tour operators and online net rate providers, obtain travel inventory (hotel rooms, rental cars, airline tickets, other package components, etc.) from travel suppliers at a negotiated rate, mark it up, and re-sell it to consumers either directly or through an affiliate. The travel distributor is then obligated to pay the travel supplier that provided the inventory. Without PegsPay, the travel supplier must manually track the inventory that has been sold by various distributors on their behalf and must try to collect the revenues due to them from the distributor in a timely manner. Today, the travel supplier typically either invoices the travel distributor or charges a credit card provided by the distributor, which incurs additional costs for the supplier due to credit card fees. While PegsPay benefits the distributor’s travel suppliers and affiliates, the travel distributor pays for the service via a transaction fee. The new service allows the travel distributor to pay each travel supplier via one consolidated payment in the travel supplier’s choice of currency and in the manner in which the supplier wishes to get paid (e.g., check or direct deposit).

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Rates Unchanged

The Federal Open Market Committee decided Wednesday to keep its target for the federal funds rate unchanged at 1.75%. It is expected the Feds will not adjust rates until early 2003 given the sputtering recovery. The FOMC noted the upward impetus from the swing in inventory investment and the growth in final demand appears to have moderated. The Committee expects the rate of increase of final demand to pick up over coming quarters, supported in part by robust underlying growth in productivity, but the degree of the strengthening remains uncertain. Earlier this week, The Conference Board reported that consumer confidence fell in June to 106.4, posting its largest one-month drop since the Sept 11th attacks. Meanwhile, Discover reported last week that its credit card outstandings fell 1.6% since February 28th, and that charging activity was flat compared to a year ago. Discover’s charge-off rate, or loss rate, hit 6.30% for the second quarter of this year, about 27% higher than last year. Other top issuers are expected to report similar trends when second quarter earnings reports come out in July.

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I-Gambling Stunted

A new study found that Internet gambling companies could see their growth potential cut in half over the next year as major credit card issuers refuse to accept online gambling transactions. The Bear Stearns study projects that growth rates in the industry could be sliced next year, from 43% to 20%, or to roughly $4.2 billion in total industry-wide revenues. Many large credit card issuers, such as Bank of America, Fleet, Direct Merchants Bank, MBNA, and Chase Manhattan Bank have already begun to block Internet gambling transactions. More recently, Citibank, which controls approximately 16% of the US credit card industry, also joined in. London-based Sportingbet.com says 30% of its American customers use credit cards to place bets on its Web site. Bear Stearns concludes that credit card transactions are the life blood of Internet gambling and without them it will force such firms to shift to international markets and may possibly set off a wave of consolidation. (CF Library 6/24/02)

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SUREFIRE & SHOPRITE

Montreal-based SureFire Commerce has partnered with ShopSite, a developer of shopping cart software, to process transactions for ShopSite’s online
merchants. ShopSite offers shopping cart software to small and medium-sized businesses through hosting providers such as Bizland, Verio, Lexiconn,
YourHost and InterLand. The partnership enables ShopSite’s merchants to accept VISA, MasterCard, and electronic checks online. SureFire Commerce
processes credit cards payments for Internet, mail-order/telephone, and bill payment transactions, as well as processing checks online and by phone.

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DoD Smart Cards

EDS has delivered one million multi-application smart cards to the U.S. military in seven months. EDS is the prime systems integrator for the largest advanced smart card program to date in the U.S. Government, ultimately issuing cards at more than 900 DoD sites worldwide. The cards are used by active duty, reserve and National Guard personnel, as well as civilian government employees and designated contractors. Known as Common Access Cards, the smart card technology acts as an ID card providing users access to DoD sites and enabling access to military networks and computer systems. The CAC surface includes a photograph, identification text, bar codes, and a magnetic strip. The DoD CAC is the world’s first Java Card certified to meet the Federal Information Processing Standard 140-1 Level 2. The DoD expects to issue an additional 3 million cards before the end of 2003.

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PSCU Signs KS CU

Payment Systems for Credit Unions has signed an agreement with Wichita, KS-based Credit Union of America to handle card processing services for 6,000 credit card accounts. Under the terms of the agreement, PSCU will provide a full service solution to Credit Union of America and its cardholders. Credit Union of America will utilize PSCU’s 24×7 Contact Center and various solutions including CURewards, Check With Statement, and ePSCU’s Infolink solution.

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VeriFone Scanners

VeriFone has certified three scanners from Intermec Technologies Corp. for use with the VeriFone Ruby SuperSystem including the MaxiScan 2220 and 2210, and the ScanPlus 1800 Vista. The VeriFone Ruby SuperSystem combines card processing, fuel dispensing, dispenser card reader control, and ECR functions for petroleum/convenience-store operations. The Ruby software provides universality as it interfaces with a variety of peripherals including more than 50 back-office software systems and 30 major oil and generic hosts.

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@pos Sold

San Jose-based @pos confirmed this morning that it is selling substantially all of its assets to Hand Held Products. Under terms of the deal, HHP will acquire @pos’ intellectual property, accounts receivable, customer contracts, furniture, fixtures and equipment. The purchase price is $5 million in cash plus the assumption of @pos’ balance sheet liabilities subject to certain adjustments. HHP is a privately held company dedicated to the design and development of affordable, high performance, image-based data collection systems for the retail, transportation, postal, warehousing, logistics and manufacturing markets. The OTCBB-traded @pos delivers technologies that include signature capture pads, web-enabled platforms, smart card interfaces, and encryption engines supporting DES and Triple DES, in addition to offering an extensive suite of software tools.

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The Debt Registry

Las Vegas-based Security Asset Capital Corp. has opened The Debt Registry, an online registration system that provides a tracking service to verify the history of registered debt accounts, validate ownership, and conduct due diligence on potential transactions. Expanets, a partner business of Northwestern Corp., and the core business in NorthWestern Communications Group, provided the design, installation and maintenance of the infrastructure that enables The Debt Registry to securely store and track hundreds of millions of transaction records.

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