Consumer Pulse

New surveys show that Americans are getting better with debt management, shop for credit cards by interest rates, and do not consider bankruptcy as an alternative. A survey conducted by FL-based Consolidated Credit Counseling Services found that 71% of nearly 1,500 participants say debts are making their home lives unhappy as compared to 78% last year. Three-quarters of consumers polled in the 2002 survey stated that their credit cards are at, or near, their limit as compared to 80% last year. The CCCS survey also found a 6% decrease in the number of people who only pay the minimum amount due on their credit cards each month. Another survey of 1,329 participants, conducted by CardWeb.com, found that 57% of consumers look for a low interest rate when shopping for a new credit card, while 17% look for rewards program. Nearly 21% of consumers consider no annual fee to be a prime factor in card selection. Less than 6% look for high credit limits. CA-based FindLaw said its recent survey of 1,000 Americans found that only 11% of the respondents said they had ever considered filing for personal bankruptcy. FindLaw says Americans’ reluctance to consider filing for bankruptcy did not vary significantly by age, family income, race, or employment status. Those who were unemployed were no more likely to have considered filing for bankruptcy than people working full- or part-time.

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Upromise Grocery Program

Southeast Michigan-based Farmer Jack Supermarkets’ have joined the card-based Upromise college savings program. To participate in Farmer Jack’s Upromise grocery service, members simply register their Farmer Jack Bonus Savings Club card on Upromise’s website. Farmer Jack shoppers can earn 3-5 percent back for college when they use their card to purchase any of thousands of participating items. There are no coupons to collect or receipts to keep. All of Farmer Jack’s Upromise contributions are in addition to other store specials and manufacturers’ coupons. Families can track their contributions through purchase summaries posted online in their Upromise account.

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CoreCard

GA-based Delos Payment Systems, Inc., a spin-off of PaySys, changed its name to CoreCard Software, Inc. CoreCard is comprised primarily of former PaySys Labs software engineers and has been operating under the interim name, Delos Payment Systems. It has spent the last 12 months building CoreIssuing, the first real-time card issuing system with multi-lingual, multi-currency capabilities. It is the first application to leverage the company’s patent-pending real-time financial transaction processing platform, CoreEngine. The company will make CoreIssuing available to financial institutions this summer. CoreCard employs 50 engineers.

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NAB & AMEX

There are reports from Sydney that American Express and National Australia Bank are in negotiations. The move, if successful could double AmEx’s marketshare in Australia from 6% to 12%. NAB is also the second largest merchant acquirer in the country. NAB issues nearly 2 million of Australia’s 16 million cards, just behind Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and GE Capital. Since 1996, American Express has been aggressively pursuing a strategy of opening its merchant network and card product portfolio to third-party issuers around the world. American Express has established more than 70 card-issuing partnership arrangements in close to 80 countries around the world. Early this year, CIBC, the largest issuer of VISA cards in Canada, announced a deal to issue a suite of American Express credit cards that included the country’s first nationally available smart card.

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Corvette Card

Household announced this morning it has sealed a deal with General Motors to provide the first-ever officially licensed Corvette MasterCard. The credit card program will begin in June as part of the kickoff of Corvette’s 50th anniversary celebration. Household will offer the new credit card to approximately 500,000 Corvette car owners and enthusiasts via direct mail. Invitations will also be available online. Benefits include a 10% discount on 50th anniversary Corvette merchandise and a choice between two cards, one that pictures the classic 1953 Corvette, the first model to come off the production line, or the upcoming 2003 50th anniversary edition. The card will feature no annual fee as well as a 0% APR through December 31, 2002 for solicited cardholders, and 1.9% for six billing cycles for all other approved cardholders. The go to APR will be a 9.99% variable rate. The GM Card was launched with Household in September 1992 and now has 6 million cardholders.

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CUBIC OFFICE

Cubic Transportation Systems is moving later this year from Merstham, Surrey, England, to Salfords, Surrey. More than 700 employees currently work at the facility in Merstham, which became Cubic’s U.K. headquarters in 1977 after the company entered the U.K. market. In 1998, London Transport awarded the TranSys consortium the Private Finance Initiative contract to provide a new smart card-based ticketing and fare collection system for the London Underground and city buses. As part of the consortium, Cubic is providing all of the system infrastructure and maintenance. Cubic also has contracts with many of the train operating companies in the U.K. for gates, and ticket office machines. The company is also performing fare collection contracts for the city of Hanau, Germany and Rotterdam in Holland.

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Discover NASCAR

MBNA has picked up some competition in NASCAR sponsorship. HAAS CARTER Motorsports has partnered with Discover Card for a six-race NASCAR Winston Cup Series sponsorship. This is the first time Discover has become involved in NASCAR. Discover will have in-car cameras for each of the six races. In addition, new commercials will begin airing during races on the FOX and NBC networks beginning June 2 and Discover Card will be the title sponsor of NBC’s pre-race shows starting July 14. HAAS CARTER Motorsports has been searching for full-time sponsorship of its Nos. 26 and 66 teams since its primary sponsor, Kmart, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

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Cardservicer

NY-based Cardservicer announced its launch as a credit card processor. The new data center and enhanced software, which will be housed in Cardservicer’s newly renovated New York City midtown headquarters, was developed over a one-year period with a team of fifteen analysts, programmers, and technical support people at a cost of nearly $1 million. The company said the first U.S. operational customer is a women’s discount clothing chain that runs a private label credit card program. The service bureau will operate Cardservicer’s fully integrated credit card processing software platform for cardholder account management, called HORIZON, delivered in a Web-based architecture that provides credit card issuers increased scalability and functional flexibility. The HORIZON platform evolved from Credit origination and Collections software developed by Cardservicer’s associate company Instant-Bank in 1998 in partnership with GE Capital, and from the Open Card credit card account management platform, developed by Open Card.

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Fargo Patents

Fargo Electronics has received three U.S. Patents and three separate “Notice of Allowance” notifications. The patents cover “Security Printing and Unlocking Mechanism for High Security Printers;” “Printer Using Thermal Head;” and “Method and Apparatus for Communicating Between Printer or Laminator and Supplies.” To-date, Fargo has been granted 27 U.S. patents and has over 90 patent applications pending, related to specific card printer technology such as lamination, card flipping, ribbon technology, High Definition Printing, dual input hoppers, and output stackers.

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ATM CENTER

NCR has opened an ATM channel management center in Bombay. The new 5,000 square-foot facility can support a full range of financial self-service solutions and network management. The center currently provides a range of managed services to State Bank of India and Corporation Bank. The center has the capacity to manage more than 6,000 ATMs. NCR has a strong field presence throughout India, where the company offers a number of ATM-related services, including ATM monitoring and incident management, remote management of all customer financial self-service network infrastructure equipment, help-desk support, remote software distribution, around-the-clock maintenance and replenishment of ATM receipt rolls and other consumables.

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LendingTree Points

LendingTree has signed an agreement with the American Express Membership Rewards program. Program enrollees can earn bonus points when they buy or sell their home via a special, co-branded LendingTree Realty Services Web site. The special site will enable American Express Membership Rewards enrollees who complete a real estate transaction the opportunity to obtain 2,000 bonus points for every $10,000 of a home’s sale or purchase price. LendingTree Realty Services provides consumers with an avenue to connect with a nationwide network of approximately 7,000 real estate professionals.

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Cyberscam

A U.S. District Court has shut down the perpetrator of an Internet scheme that employed more than 5,500 copycat Web addresses to divert surfers from their intended Internet destinations. The court permanently barred the defendant from diverting or obstructing consumers on the Internet and from launching Web sites or Web pages that belong to unrelated third parties. The court also has barred the defendant from participating in advertising affiliate programs on the Internet, and has ordered the defendant to give up more than $1.8 million in ill-gotten gains.

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