VISA & Galileo

Visa International, Visa USA and Galileo International, a worldwide leader of electronic global distribution services for the travel industry, announced Friday a multi-faceted marketing alliance designed to deliver valuable benefits to travel agencies through the Visa payment card and Galileo’s travel booking software, Viewpoint. Under the new marketing agreement, Visa becomes the preferred payment system on Viewpoint and travel agents booking through Viewpoint will receive merchandise incentives.

Earlier this year, Galileo launched Viewpoint to help increase travel agents’ productivity for its approximately 40,000 travel agency locations. Viewpoint’s point-and-click environment, with drop-down menus, is easier to learn and use, creating the potential for reduced training costs and increased productivity. Traditional formats and screen displays required extensive training before an agent could become proficient.

“Travel agents can now book airlines, hotels and cars with just a few mouse clicks,” said Terry Rolecek, vice president, Marketing and Sales Programs for Galileo. “Agents are freed from memorizing cryptic codes. They can get information quickly for the traveling public and provide better customer service while achieving benefits themselves.”

“Agents who are members of the Visa Preferred Program can immediately recognize the added benefits they can accrue from this partnership,” said Rob Robins, executive vice president of Merchant Sales and Integrated Solutions for Visa USA “The automatic prompt on Viewpoint asking for the client’s Visa card will help them earn additional points toward valuable rewards.”

First introduced in the fall of 1996, the Visa Preferred Program was established to help travel agencies build business by offering incentives to front-line agents. Participating agents using the Galileo(R) and Apollo(R) systems can earn valuable points redeemable for awards such as mileage certificates for free flights and car rentals and gift certificates for major retailers, entertainment centers and hotel accommodations.

Apollo serves subscribers in North America, Mexico and Japan, while Galileo is marketed in all other areas. Although the Galileo and Apollo systems are marketed separately, they share a number of products and databases such as Viewpoint.

The companies announced this joint initiative here at a press conference at the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) annual conference. Future plans for the Visa-Galileo partnership include developing incentive-based marketing programs for travel agents and their customers.

For more information about the 1999 Visa Preferred Program, including information on how to join, travel agents may call the Visa Preferred Service Center at 1-800-511-VISA.

About Galileo

Galileo International is one of the world’s leading providers of electronic global distribution services for the travel industry. The company provides travel agencies at approximately 40,000 locations, as well as other subscribers, with the ability to access schedule and fare information, book reservations and issue tickets for more than 500 airlines. Galileo International also provides subscribers with information and booking capabilities covering all major hotel chains, car rental companies, cruise lines and numerous tour operators throughout the world. Further information about the company is available on Galileo’s web site: [http://www.galileo.com][1].

About Visa

As the “World’s Best Way to Pay,” Visa is the leading payment brand and the largest payment system in the world with more volume than all other major payment cards combined. Visa plays a pivotal role in advancing new payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions and their cardholders. Visa has more than 70 smart card programs in 33 countries and on the Internet, with 23 million Visa chip cards, including 8 million Visa Cash cards. Visa is pioneering SET Secure Electronic Transaction(TM) programs to enable and advance Internet commerce. There are over 850 million Visa, Visa Electron, Interlink, PLUS and Visa Cash cards, which generate more than US $1.4 trillion in annual volume. Visa-branded cards are accepted at over 17 million worldwide locations, including at more than 500,000 ATMs in the Visa Global ATM Network. Visa’s Internet address is [http://www.visa.com][2].

[1]: http://www.galileo.com/
[2]: http://www.visa.com/

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UVM Switches Partners

MBNA America Bank, N.A., has been selected as the new credit card provider for the University of Vermont. The new program offers no-annual fee, low annual percentage rate MasterCard or Visa credit cards to alumni, parents, and friends of the University of Vermont.

“We selected MBNA because we are convinced they will provide our members with the very best customer service and card benefits available,” said Thomas J. Amidon, ’61, president of the University of Vermont Alumni Association. “Our relationship with MBNA is truly exciting. This program will provide alumni and friends with a great way to support UVM while receiving excellent benefits.”

“We look forward to our new relationship with MBNA, an organization with a strong presence in New England and one of the leading credit card providers in the nation. They have an outstanding reputation for customer service,” said Chrysanne O’Neill, director of Alumni Relations.

MBNA will offer several card choices, including the Platinum Plus MasterCard and Visa credit cards, featuring a credit line of up to $100,000, a low introductory annual percentage rate for cash advance checks and balance transfers, $1 million in common carrier travel accident insurance, and the Platinum Plus Registry, which offers card and document registry, emergency cash, and replacement airline tickets. Preferred MasterCard and Visa cards will also be available.

Alumni, parents, and friends who currently have a UVM affinity credit card will receive more information on how to apply for a new MBNA card in November. Only the UVM card issued by MBNA will generate royalties for the University.

“We are pleased that the University of Vermont has chosen MBNA,” said John Cochran, Chief Marketing Officer of MBNA, “and we look forward to providing them with the highest level of financial products and customer service.”

MBNA Corporation (NYSE: KRB), a bank holding company and parent of MBNA America, N.A., a national bank, has $67.4 billion in managed loans. MBNA, the largest independent credit card lender in the world, also provides retail deposit, consumer loan, and insurance services.

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Home Depot Gift Card

The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, Friday announced the availability of Home Depot Gift Cards at its Web site.

“Extending the sale of Home Depot Gift Cards to the Internet provides customers the convenience of purchasing these popular gift items from their own computer,” said Ellen Dracos, Home Depot’s director of homedepot.com. “Today’s product launch online is an important next step as we prepare to launch sales of products on the Internet next year.”

Purchase Home Depot Gift Cards Online

The credit card-sized gift cards – which can be purchased in amounts of $10, $25, $50 or $100 – can be redeemed at any Home Depot, EXPO Design Center(R) or Villager’s Hardware stores(SM) in the United States.

homedepot.com provides customers with an easy step-by-step process to order multiple Home Depot Gift Cards in a single transaction. Customers simply enter the number of gift cards and dollar amount for each recipient, as well as shipping information and a personalized message for each package. To complete each order, customers are required to enter their credit card number on Home Depot’s secure servers, which use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) software to receive the information by encryption.

Customers have the option to have the gift card package shipped to the recipient’s home or business address via US Postal Service, United Parcel Service (UPS) ground, UPS 2-day or UPS next day service. The recipient will receive the gift card(s) and a personalized message in an 8-1/2″ by 11″ carrier.

“Home Depot Gift Cards make perfect holiday gifts, particularly for the do-it-yourselfer who might prefer to select the merchandise at the store,” said Dracos. “We anticipate the availability of gift cards online will greatly expand the popularity of this item during the upcoming holiday season.”

Coinciding with the gift card launch is the introduction of 24/7 customer service, including the new I-Help feature at homedepot.com. I-Help provides gift card buyers with a 24-hour, real-time forum to receive instant help from a Home Depot associate regarding gift card ordering. Gift card buyers who access the I-Help function submit a question; within seconds an associate will provide the visitor with the necessary information to complete his or her gift card purchase.

“Home Depot takes personalized customer service to new levels through the I-Help feature,” said Dracos. “Now gift card buyers can ask Home Depot associates specific questions around-the-clock, any day of the week to make their gift card purchase quick, secure and easy.”

Home Depot also expanded its e-mail and phone service hours to 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Nov. 5. I-Help will be available throughout the site in early 2000.

About homedepot.com

Home Depot’s Web site at [http://www.homedepot.com][1] extends the company’s quality customer service from the stores to the Internet by providing customers with more than 150 Project How-To’s, a personalized Home Team home page and various project calculators.

Founded in 1978, in Atlanta, Ga., The Home Depot currently operates more than 888 stores in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Chile. The company reported net sales for fiscal 1998 of $30.2 billion and employs more than 190,000 people. Its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (HD) and is listed in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

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

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Flame Continues

VISA International has nailed down its Olympic sponsorship well into the next decade. VISA announced Friday the renewal of its Olympic partnership as a ‘TOP V Worldwide Partner’ of the XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, and the XXVIII Olympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. The partnership agreement makes VISA the exclusive payment card and the official payment system of the 2002 and 2004 Olympic events. As a worldwide ‘TOP’ sponsor, VISA contributes significantly to the host country market by developing business alliances with destination marketing partners. Since 1986, more than 20 million VISA cards bearing the Olympic rings have been issued by VISA’s members. More than 500 key VISA member financial institutions worldwide are involved in leveraging the Olympic Games to benefit their cardholders and merchants.

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Payroll Cash Card

First Data’s IPS Card Solutions has signed agreements for Texas Capital Bank to offer the ‘Western Union Cash Card’ service to Texas businesses. The IPS system provides a means for paying work forces dispersed across wide geographical areas, or unbanked employees. It can also serve as a platform for employee incentive and recognition programs. The card provides access to an employee’s pay via more than 200,000 ATMs and 425,000 POS retailers located throughout the U.S. Texas Capital will promote the card to Texas businesses through co-branded marketing efforts featuring both the bank’s logo and the Western Union logo.

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Come Together

VISA International and Proton World announced this morning they have signed an agreement that will enable existing and future Proton licensees to choose the ‘VISA Cash’ brand for their cards and existing and future ‘VISA Cash’ licensees to choose the Proton technology. VISA currently has nine million ‘VISA Cash’ cards in circulation among 18 countries. There are 62 million Proton e-purse cards issued under a variety of domestic brand names in 18 countries. Today’s announcement will undoubtedly accelerate issuance of the ‘VISA Cash’ brand worldwide. The Proton technology and all ‘VISA Cash’ cards will eventually comply with the global ‘Common Electronic Purse Specifications’ which is being jointly developed by CEPSCO Espa±ola A.I.E., EURO Kartensysteme, Europay International, and VISA International.

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Stewartship Ends

Bank One continued Friday to deny it is considering to unload its First USA credit card unit to stop the weakness in earnings and the recent decline in Bank One’s market value. However First USA encountered another blow with the loss of a top executive. James Stewart, EVP of partnership and Internet marketing for First USA and president and CEO of WingspanBank.com, announced Friday he is leaving at the end of this year. An eleven year veteran of First USA, Stewart indicated Friday he is considering several Internet-based financial-service opportunities. Under Stewart’s stewardship First USA entered into more than 2,200 partnerships. Gary Marino, EVP of marketing, will assume responsibility for the partnership marketing area. Michael Cleary, EVP of Internet marketing for WingspanBank.com, will take over the day-to-day management and operation of WingspanBank.com. Last month First USA’s chairman and CEO Richard Vague resigned.

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News Week Begins

Fax machines at news offices around the world will be working overtime this week as a number of major announcements pertaining to payment systems and e-commerce are expected to be released. The world’s largest card event gets underway this week in Paris. The Cartes ’99 event will draw more than 12,000 visitors, 1,000 delegates, 250 exhibitors, 200 journalists from more than 100 countries. Cartes ’99 will open tomorrow and run for three days. This is the fourteenth year for the Cartes event. Meanwhile the 20th annual fall COMDEX information technology expo and convention opened over the weekend. This is the largest event held in Las Vegas and will draw more than 200,000 visitors, 2,000 exhibitors and 3,500 news media attendees.

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AmEx Gift Card

American Express has directly joined the hot gift card market with the introduction of the ‘Be My Guest’ gift card. The prepaid stored value card can be redeemed at any restaurant in the U.S.A. that accepts the American Express card. American Express cardholders can order the ‘Be My Guest’ card in any amount ranging from $25 to $250. There is a $5.95 handling fee. The AmEx ‘Be My Guest’ program has been in existence for more than 20 years as a paper-based gift certificate. Cardmembers who purchase a ‘Be My Guest’ card before March 12 will earn 350 bonus points and/or Skymiles if they are enrolled in the ‘Membership Rewards’ program or carry an AmEx ‘Delta Skymiles’ card. American Express is also involved with other gift cards such as a Tower Record gift card.

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Equifax – Federated

Equifax announced that it has been awarded a multi-year contract with Federated Department Stores, Inc., to provide Equifax’s full line of credit information solutions to the retail giant. Federated has been a user of Equifax Check Solutions since 1997. The addition of credit information solutions exemplifies the “Total Solution” for which Equifax is known. Equifax enhanced its relationship with Federated by leveraging the strength of its Information and Payment Services businesses.

“Equifax is a customer-driven company,” said Bill Catucci, executive vice president, Equifax North American Information Services. “We like nothing better than to be able to bring our total solution to a customer by providing complementary services that minimize risk throughout the entire credit and payment life cycles.”

The new contract gives Federated access to a myriad of Equifax risk assessment and management tools, including credit reports, risk scores, portfolio review and custom predictive models as well as credit marketing services and recovery and collections services.

Sherri Mewha, senior vice president, Equifax Retail Solutions, said, “The Equifax solutions will be even more dramatic with the employment of Equifax’s dynamic new range of knowledge-based products and services, created specifically for the retail industry, which have the capability to enhance customer relationship and loyalty management.”

Equifax solutions will be deployed in all Federated department stores throughout the country, including Bloomingdales, The Bon Marche, Burdines, Goldsmith’s, Lazarus, Macy’s, Rich’s and Stern’s.

Federated, with corporate offices in Cincinnati and New York, is one of the nation’s leading department store retailers with annual sales of more than $17.3 billion. Federated currently operates more than 400 department stores in 33 states. Federated also operates the Fingerhut, Bloomingdale’s By Mail, Macy’s By Mail and Macys.com direct-to-consumer catalog and electronic commerce subsidiaries. Information on Federated and its operating divisions is available on the Internet at [http://www.federated-fds.com][1].

Equifax ([http://www.equifax.com][2]), a worldwide leader in shaping global commerce, brings buyers and sellers together through its information management, transaction processing and knowledge-based businesses. Atlanta-based Equifax serves the financial services, retail, credit card, telecommunications/utilities, transportation, information technology and healthcare industries and government. Equifax adds knowledge, expertise, convenience and security to provide value-added solutions and processes for its customers wherever they do business, including the Internet and other networks. Entering its second century in business, Equifax employs about 13,000 associates in 17 countries with sales in almost 50 and has more than $1.7 billion in revenue.

[1]: http://www.federated-fds.com/
[2]: http://www.equifax.com/

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Bank One’s Struggle

There is speculation this morning that Bank One will either sell off its First USA credit card unit or that the entire company might be up for grabs. Bank One’s stock price dived 9% Wednesday and 2.5% Thursday following news that its problems in the credit card unit cannot be repaired soon. First USA provoked higher than average attrition through its aggressive cardholder fee policies and weak customer service. The issuer has also watched margins slip as it chopped interest rates and raised marketing expenses. First USA lost more than one million accounts during the third quarter. Exacerbating the problem is the recent management changes at First USA. Bank One dismissed First USA’s chairman and CEO Richard Vague following the release of its third quarter earnings report Oct. 19. Bank One says its full review and outlook for 2000, promised during the fourth quarter, will now be delayed until January due to the First USA management changes. Bank One’s troubles spilled over onto other card issuers yesterday. MBNA’s stock fell nearly $2 yesterday to close at $24.50 and Capital One fell slightly more than $1 to close at $45.75.

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