Price Chopper E-Checks

Price Chopper, the full-service supermarket chain, announced it will begin an electronic check conversion pilot program next month in partnership with San Francisco-based BankServ, one of the nation’s leading providers of electronic check conversion services. The pilot, the first by a large U.S. grocery chain, will take place at the Price Chopper store in Dunmore, Penn.

The company operates 97 super center retail outlets in six states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

If the 90-day pilot program goes as expected, Price Chopper plans to install digital imaging check readers provided by Hypercom Corporation (NYSE: HYC), and BankServ’s check conversion services in all of its stores beginning in January 2001.

“This latest technology will streamline check processing for the company, lower operating costs, and will very quickly become completely transparent to consumers,” according to Joanne Gage, vice president of consumer and marketing services for Price Chopper. “We strongly believe that any investment we make in converting to this process will quickly be recouped by the savings we will achieve. Paper check handling is becoming increasingly expensive,” explained Gage. “Electronic processing brings the cost of accepting checks closer to the cost of debit card transactions. In addition, consumers are already comfortable with checks, and check conversion still provides customers with 24-48 hours of float.”

One additional advantage of electronic check conversion to both merchants and customers, according to Gage, is that it speeds up check out lines. “Our experience shows that filling out a paper check can add 30-50 seconds to every transaction,” said Gage. “We are hoping this faster service will further encourage consumers to shop with us. We will be developing educational materials for our customers and careful training for employees to make sure everyone is comfortable with the new procedures. Because our customers trust us, we want the process to be seamless and transparent to them.”

Check Conversion Savings Balance Cost of Installation

Retailers have been skeptical of moving to electronic check conversion in the past because of the cost of installing the equipment, noted Gage. “BankServ, however, was willing to look at our existing costs and come up with a business case that works for us,” she said. “BankServ is more a partner in this project than a service provider. They wanted a win-win situation for both our companies and our customers.”

Paul Rasori, vice president of retail sales for BankServ’s Atlanta-based check services unit, explained, “Processing checks electronically via the nation’s ACH system eliminates the delay caused by having to take paper checks to the bank. Merchants get a faster availability on their funds. They also receive a faster notice on returned items, and they eliminate the most basic and costly problem of paper checks: handling them. In summary, electronic check conversion cuts handling time, automates returned items processing and increases cash flow.”

Roger C. Hitchcock, vice president and general manager of Hypercom’s Multi-Lane Division, added, “Working closely with BankServ has allowed us to easily cost justify new technologies for Price Chopper. Building on the ROI of check conversion, Price Chopper can now take advantage of our new ePic (ePOS-infocommerce(TM)) ICE(TM) 6000 platform, an Internet-enabled, touch-screen card payment web appliance that supports traditional electronic payment and smart card transactions, and features an array of revenue-generating applications such as electronic check imaging and conversion, receipt capture, e-commerce and more.”

How Check Conversion Works

Digital imaging check readers take a picture of the customer’s blank check, capturing the customer’s checking account number and name and address information. Then the check is voided and handed back to the customer. The electronic images will be available should the customer or retailer need them later, especially if the transaction is returned and must be reconstructed for some reason. Customers therefore won’t get cancelled checks with their monthly bank statement, but they will receive a more detailed line-item description of their electronic check transactions on their bank statements.

If an electronic check doesn’t clear the first time, it will automatically be run through again, helping retailers get their funds more quickly. In many cases, this will save consumers from returned check charges, since the retailer will not incur the labor cost associated with check collection. Electronic conversion also reduces the potential for unauthorized use of account information.

About BankServ

Founded in 1996 by CEO Dave Kvederis, BankServ is one of the country’s leading providers of payment solutions for online businesses, retailers and financial services companies. BankServ’s check services unit provides electronic check conversion and information reporting services to more than 2,000 U.S. merchants. BankServ is also one of the nation’s leading check conversion service providers to large and small U.S. financial institutions.

The company’s Internet payments division offers a new electronic check for Internet business built on the backbone of BankServ’s secure, proprietary, brick-and-mortar check data-capture and ACH system. The Internet division also offers a full suite of settlement applications for both business-to-business exchanges and consumer-to-business payments, as well as reporting services for businesses on the Internet. The company’s wire transfer unit processes more than $1 billion a day in global and domestic wire transfers on behalf of more than 50 U.S. financial institutions.

Headquartered in San Francisco, BankServ also maintains offices in Atlanta, Boise, Chicago, Dallas, Lafayette, La., Las Vegas and New York. More information about BankServ can be found online at [www.bankserv.com][1].

About Hypercom

Hypercom Corporation is a global provider of end-to-end electronic payment solutions, including card payment systems, peripherals, network products, software and e-commerce payment solutions that add value at the point-of-sale for consumers, merchants and acquirers.

Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, Hypercom markets its products in more than 70 countries through a global network of affiliates and offices in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Venezuela. Hypercom’s Internet address is http://www.hypercom.com.

About Price Chopper

Price Chopper, a subsidiary of the Golub Corporation, was founded in 1932 by two brothers, Ben and Bill Golub. After years in the wholesale grocery business with their father, Lewis, the Golub brothers laid the roots for “one stop shopping” when they opened the Public Service Market in Green Island, N.Y. The store name was changed to Central Market a year later. The one store grew into an innovative supermarket chain over the next 40 years, introducing S&H Green Stamps and 24-hour shopping convenience to the Northeast.

Central Markets became the Price Chopper Discount Supermarkets in 1973. Golub Corporation today is ranked between 43rd and 45th in sales in the nation and employs 18,700 associates. Employees own approximately 44 percent of the company’s privately held stock. The company operates 97 super center retail outlets in six northeastern states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. It is headquartered in Schenectady, N.Y. More information about Price Chopper can be found at http://www.pricechopper.com.

[1]: http://www.bankserv.com/

Details

NPC & GTE Team

National Processing Company has entered into an agreement with GTE to provide on-line bill payment using VirtualPAY for GTE’s bill payment service, Quick Pay. This agreement expands National Processing Company’s presence in the on- line bill payment market. NPC is the second largest provider of merchant credit card processing.

GTE now offers Quick Pay free of charge to its customers who have not signed up for GTE’s on-line billing program. Quick Pay allows customers to quickly pay their bills on-line by simply entering their GTE account number and bank information. GTE customers can use Quick Pay 24 hours a day, seven days a week and authorize an on-line payment to GTE within minutes. Customers control when and how much they want to pay without having to handwrite a check.

“As part of our commitment to make GTE the most customer-focused telecommunications provider on the Internet, we were looking for an easy-to- use Internet payment service to offer our customers” said Jeff Rudluff, director of Web commerce for GTE. “We chose to implement NPC’s VirtualPAY(SM) product because it was an off-the-shelf solution that was easily customized to meet our electronic payment needs.”

VirtualPAY(SM) is NPC’s user friendly Internet payment service for both check and credit card payments. VirtualPAY(SM) is one of the industry’s leading applications for bill payment, funds transfer and on-line Internet purchases. Current users of NPC’s VirtualPAY(SM) services include Chevron, ExxonMobil and E*TRADE. VirtualPAY(SM) is a customizable solution that facilitates on-line payments in both the consumer- to- business and business- to-business markets.

“Quick Pay is a robust and flexible Internet payment product that easily adapts to the users’ requirements. GTE’s drive to make the GTE.com Web site a customer focused tool sets a high standard for billers large and small,” said Tom Wimsett, president and CEO of NPC.

About NPC

NPC is a leading provider of merchant credit card processing and corporate outsourcing solutions. NPC supports approximately 500,000 merchant locations, representing one out of every six Visa(R) and MasterCard(R) transactions processed nationally. Approximately 88 percent of the company is owned by National City Corporation (NYSE: NCC), a Cleveland based $86 billion financial holding company. Additional information regarding NPC can be obtained at http://www.npc.net .

About GTE

With 1999 revenues of more than $25 billion, GTE is a leading telecommunications provider with one of the industry’s broadest arrays of products and services. In the United States, GTE provides local service in 28 states and wireless service in 18 states, as well as nationwide long-distance, directory, and internetworking services ranging from dial-up Internet access for residential and small-business consumers to Web-based applications for Fortune 500 companies. Outside the United States, the company serves customers on five continents. Additional information about GTE can be obtained at http://www.gte.com.

Details

TRM Joins UK’s Link

TRM Corporation announced that it is now an official member of the Link Network. Link is the UK’s national cash machine network. TRM is one of the first non-bank cash machine operators approved to join the network. Membership comes at a time when TRM is actively expanding throughout the UK – over 700 machines are already installed with 2,000 expected to be operational by the end of the year.

According to Link Executive Director, John Hardy: “Additional ATM operators on the Link network will be beneficial to consumers as it will result in more machines being installed, especially in those locations currently without access to an ATM. TRM is a highly professional organisation with an intensive infrastructure in the UK and offers its customers a reliable and secure service.”

TRM director, Phillip Carr commented: “Membership of the Link Network will enable us to offer our services to individuals in additional locations across the UK. As our expansion continues throughout the year, more customers will have the opportunity to access their money in a safe, indoor environment.”

Details

Credit Card Funding

Fitch warned this week that regulatory scrutiny could limit the ability of credit card companies looking for ways to diversify their funding sources away from securitization or public debt markets. Fitch says one option that has been aggressively pursued by consumer finance companies that maintain or started bank or thrift charters has been to raise bank deposits through brokered channels or direct marketing. The rating agency says the recent announcement that the bank subsidiaries of Advanta Corp. each reached agreements with their respective bank regulatory agencies could be a prelude to further regulatory scrutiny of other consumer finance companies. While Fitch does not believe that all companies will be cast into the same situation as Advanta, companies that are not diligent in the management of their sub-prime lending operations will be more at risk of scrutiny from bank regulators.

Details

Swiss Bull Card

Bull Smart Cards & Terminals, world leader in the field of electronic purses, with over 62 million cards in use in some twenty countries, has been chosen to supply two million reloadable electronic purse cards in Switzerland.

The cards, which are based on the Proton technology, have been Selected by Union des Banques Suisses, Credit Suisse and by the regional and local (canton) banks for their performance, capacity and high level of security.

The ambitious electronic purse programme undertaken in Switzerland four years ago has now generated massive popularity, and 6 million units are now in use. Around one third of the cards are renewed each year by the programme’s partner banks, enabling carriers of “Cash” cards to enjoy constant access to the latest functionalities and technological progress.

In a highly competitive call for bids involving all the leading potential suppliers, the secure performance of Bull’s cards was the decisive factor in clinching the contract award. The company, which had supplied Switzerland with its first six million cards has again been selected and will supply a further two millions units in the coming weeks.

About Bull Smart Cards & Terminals

The history of Bull Smart Cards & Terminals goes back to 1977, the year in which the company filed its first patent. Since then, Bull has been the undisputed leader in smart card technology. Today, 20% of all microprocessor cards in circulation worldwide operate with software developed by Bull. Bull is the world leader in the field of software for bank cards, and has a 30% share of the world electronic purse market. In 1999, the company ventured into the GSM market and is now at the leading edge in the development of UMTS, the third generation of SIM cards. It is also promoting the world’s first “Internet” smart card.

More information at: http://www.cp8.bull.net, and on Groupe Bull at: http://www.bull.com.

Details

UK Exit

Pulling in the reins and pulling out of a highly competitive market, Bank One announced this morning it is exiting the credit card business in the United Kingdom. As a result Halifax Group has signed agreements to purchase Bank One’s UK retail credit card portfolio. Bank One launched its UK credit card business in Dec. 1998 and has a retail and affinity card customer base of more than 200,000 cards. Bank One’s UK affinity card programs include Yahoo!, Lycos, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, Manchester City F.C. and the Welsh Rugby Union. Halifax currently has 1.2 million credit cards in-force including 200,000 affinity cards. Halifax currently offers the ‘Halifax VISA’, ‘Halifax Gold MasterCard’ and ‘VISA Balance Card’. Halifax’s ‘VISA Charity Card’ has raised over 12 million pounds sterling to-date for three of the UK’s leading charities. James Corcoran, currently President of Bank One’s UK credit card operation, will join Halifax as Managing Director of Halifax Card Services, overseeing both the acquired business and Halifax’s existing card operations. Halifax said this morning it aims to double its credit card base by 2004.

Details

Card Protection Scams

The Federal Trade Commission has obtained stipulated final judgments against two firms offering phony credit card protection offers. OK-based Universal Marketing Services was banned from marketing any credit card registration or protection service and is required to post a $200,000 bond for engaging in any telemarketing of goods and services. The company and its principals were also required to pay $45,000 as a monetary judgment. UMS told consumers that the Y2K bug could affect the computer files at credit card companies and additional protection was warranted. Most consumers did not order the protection, but those who did were charged up to $199 and received little of value in return. In addition, some consumers who declined the coverage were billed anyway. In the second action, the FTC authorized the filing of a modified complaint and permanent injunction in the form of a consent decree against GEP, Inc. d/b/a Bank Card Security Center.

Details

PR Warriors

It’s difficult to ascertain who is working harder in the card association’s defense of antitrust charges: attorneys or public relations specialists. This week VISA is utilizing Washington, DC-based Americans for Consumer Education and Competition as a propaganda tool. Since the start of the trial ten days ago VISA and American Express have been churning out a record number of press releases to fortify arguments being made in the federal courtroom. Since June 12 AmEx has announced three major card partnerships with foreign financial institutions and VISA has made major announcements concerning smart cards and innovative card security technologies. This week the VISA-funded Americans for Consumer Education and Competition issued a news release warning consumers that “if American Express prevails” in the courtroom then “we could all be spending more for credit card transactions”. The group also ran an ad in The Wall Street Journal to explain the “facts of this case to consumers and public opinion leaders”. The ACEC was formed in early May and is being chaired by former US Rep. Susan Molinari. The group’s purported mission is “fostering consumer education and financial literacy while promoting competition in the marketplace”. The group’s first press release quotes Molinari as saying “this trial . . . is about bailing out a competitor”.

Details

Coinstar Summer Promo

Coinstar Inc. announced a late summer partnership with Wherehouse Music, one of the country’s top music and home entertainment retailers. Between August 27 and September 24, anyone who processes at least $10 worth of change through Coinstar in the United States will receive a coupon for $3 off any Wherehouse CD or tape, priced at $9.99 or higher.

Consumers can use their $3 off coupon at any one of the more than 500 Wherehouse Music stores in the United States, or by visiting the Wherehouse Music Web site.

Today’s announcement with Wherehouse Music is the third national promotion announced by Coinstar this year. It follows partnership agreements with the United States Mint and Disney Channel. During the United States Mint promotion, Americans redeemed 25% of the offers received, demonstrating the popularity of the promotion. The Disney Channel promotion, announced last week, began yesterday.

“Coinstar is committed to leveraging our coast-to-coast network to provide extra value for our customers,” said Dan Gerrity, president and CEO of Coinstar. “These national promotions with well known household names such as the United States Mint, Disney Channel, and Wherehouse Music, provide us with an opportunity to do just that.”

About Coinstar Inc.

Recently ranked the country’s eighteenth fastest growing technology company, Coinstar Inc. (NASDAQ: CSTR) and its subsidiaries, Meals.com and Coinstar International, uses technology to deliver time and money saving services to consumers in their local supermarkets. Coinstar’s 7,500 strong network of machines is currently available to 125 million consumers in 40 states and the District of Columbia, as well Canada and the United Kingdom. Consumers can visit www.findcoinstar.com.

Details

Online Affluence

A new study shows that most of the affluent in North America use the Internet more than other consumer groups. According to a report from Forrester Research millionaires research and buy everything from books and jewelry to airline tickets and groceries online. The research also found that those with investable assets of at least $1 million are 124% more likely to visit financial sites. The affluent own more technology products than other consumers, including fax machines, projection TVs, DVD players, digital cameras, and writeable CD drives, with the average affluent household owning two PCs. They also use their PCs more often than other users, with two-thirds turning on their machines every day versus half of the nonaffluent. About 56% of today’s wealthy households are wired versus 43% of the general population. Half of these millionaires have been going online for at least three years, with only one-third of nonaffluent consumers having as much experience. Beyond sending email and using search engines, reference guides, and directories, a deeper interest in finance distinguishes the affluent from other surfers.

Details

Internet Fraud

A major step towards fighting Internet bankcard fraud has been made as Equifax has agreed to integrate its global non-credit data for almost 300 million consumers into HNC’s ‘eFalcon’ Internet fraud prevention system. The combined solution will help online merchants to more accurately predict Internet bankcard fraud, verify the integrity of billing and shipping addresses on Internet orders, and expand into international markets. Currently, many Internet merchants do not sell goods to consumers when the shipping address does not match the consumer’s bankcard billing address because the merchant cannot verify the shipping address. With this new partnership between eHNC and Equifax, merchants can now check the ship to address provided on the Internet order against the Equifax address file. The enhanced ‘eFalcon’ service will feature Equifax’s identity verification technology and security system to improve the way online merchants authenticate and verify bankcard transactions worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, and Latin America. Today, online merchants must rely on an address verification system, valid only in the USA, to verify consumer billing addresses. Under terms of the partnership eHNC will also become a VAR of Equifax’s fraud detection solutions including ‘SafeScan’, ‘Gemini Verify Score’ and ‘eSecure’.

Details

FlightFund Dining

America West Airlines announced a new way to earn frequent flyer miles-FlightFund Dining.

“FlightFund Dining allows customers to earn miles at thousands of great restaurants across the nation,” said Mike Smith, senior vice president, marketing and sales. “Enjoy a fine meal nationwide and earn miles for free travel worldwide.”

There is no cost to enroll in FlightFund Dining. Members can call 1-877-272-8355 and register up to three credit or debit cards to use when paying their dining bill. Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Card credit cards or Visa and MasterCard debit cards qualify. The program is completely discreet and does not require a separate identification card.

Members earn 10 miles for every qualified dollar spent on food, beverages, tax and tip, up to a maximum of 6,000 miles monthly on the first transaction at each participating restaurant. Miles earned in the FlightFund Dining program will be automatically posted to members’ accounts.

Participating restaurants are located in major cities all across the U.S., including Phoenix; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; New York; Chicago; and Los Angeles. Members can call the convenient 24-hour customer service hotline at 1-877-272-8355 to obtain up-to-date information on participating restaurants, restaurant locations and toll-free fax-back service.

FlightFund Dining is being co-developed with Transmedia Network Inc. (NYSE: TMN), a leader in the development and marketing of transaction-based dining and other consumer savings programs. Transmedia will be responsible for managing the program’s merchant network.

FlightFund, America West’s worldwide frequent flyer program, offers travelers a unique and flexible program featuring First Class upgrades and worldwide award travel. New members will receive 2,500 miles after their first flight. Awards begin at 20,000 miles. Customers who are not already FlightFund members can contact the FlightFund Service Center at 1-800-247-5691 to enroll or sign up on the Internet at [www.americawest.com][1].

America West Airlines, the nation’s ninth-largest carrier, serves 88 destinations with more than 860 daily departures in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Along with its codeshare partners, America West serves more than 140 destinations worldwide. America West Airlines is a wholly owned subsidiary of America West Holdings Corporation, an aviation and travel services company with 1999 sales in excess of $2.2 billion.

Transmedia Network Inc., based in North Miami, Fla., is a leader in the development and marketing of transaction-based dining and other consumer savings programs. The company is now the largest membership based dining savings program in the United States, with more than 2.7 million members and approximately 9,500 restaurant merchants.

[1]: http://www.americawest.com/

Details