AmEx Supports NYC Schools

As part of its commitment to NYC 2000, with Mayor Giuliani, Continental Airlines announced yesterday that it is teaming up with American Express to provide $1 million in support of New York City schools. The money will be divided equally between an initiative to re-build libraries in New York City elementary and middle schools and a college scholarship program for graduating seniors.

Continental and American Express plan to fund the Millennium Library Project through a cause-related marketing program. The funds will be used to improve libraries in New York City elementary and middle schools. The program will provide much-needed books and software titles that can greatly enrich students’ learning experience. Targeted schools have been identified by The Board of Education as having low reading scores and needing to significantly improve student performance.

Extending their commitment to students in need, Continental and American Express have also created the Continental/American Express NYC 2000 Millennium Scholarship. Each year, the fund will award fifty $2,000 scholarships to students who have demonstrated superior academic and community achievement. The program is open to graduating seniors throughout the city who attend high schools that have been identified by the Board of Education as in need of significant improvement in student performance.

“It is vital to us and to all New Yorkers that we help educate our youth so they can help us be successful in the next century,” said Gordon Bethune, Chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines, speaking at a press conference at City Hall with Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “As a major employer in the region, with more than 11,000 employees locally, we’re proud to contribute to this pool of future talent that makes the Big Apple a great place to do business.”

“We are so pleased to be joining Continental Airlines in an effort to improve the New York City public schools. Giving back is one of the core values that governs American Express — and there is perhaps no issue that more deeply affects our future than the education of our children,” said David C. House, president, Establishment Services Worldwide, American Express.

“The new millennium is more than a unique opportunity for celebration; it is a chance to redouble our efforts to better prepare our children to face the challenges of the next century,” said Mayor Giuliani. “This public/private partnership with Continental Airlines and American Express will go a long way in educating our children and ensuring that they are ready to face those challenges.”

“I want to thank Continental Airlines and American Express for their generosity in funding these school libraries and college scholarships,” said Schools Chancellor Rudolph F. Crew. “Beyond my sincere thanks, though, are congratulations to both companies for working together to identify two areas of great need for our children in schools that are striving to reach and exceed a higher academic standard.”

Continental is the fifth largest airline in the U.S., offering more than 2,200 departures daily to 130 domestic and 85 international destinations. Operating major hubs in Houston, Newark and Cleveland, Continental ([][1]) has extensive service throughout the Americas, and to Europe and Asia. Continental recently initiated a strategic global alliance with Northwest Airlines. Continental is in the top half of Fortune magazine’s, “100 Best Companies to Work for in America,” and has won first or second place FrequentFlyer magazine and J.D. Power awards for the four consecutive years. Continental has received numerous awards for its BusinessFirst premium cabin (Conde Nast Traveler, OAG Official Airline Guides, Entrepreneur and Smart Money magazines), OnePass frequent flyer program (InsideFlyer’s Freddie Awards) and overall operations and management (Air Transport World’s 1997 Airline of the Year).

American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Express Company (NYSE: AXP), a diversified worldwide travel and financial services company founded in 1850. It is a leader in charge and credit cards, Travelers Cheques, travel, financial planning, investment products, insurance and international banking.



NYC Parking

New York City is getting high tech parking meters that accept coins and pre-payment cards. Schlumberger will announce this morning that New York City has signed a competitive bid contract for an integrated solution that includes 150 ‘DGLine’ terminals. Installation is expected to be completed by the end of this year. At that time, Schlumberger will have a total installed base in New York City of 430 units controlling over 20,000 parking spaces. The Schlumberger parking solution for NYC provides centralized two-way communication to each unit. Already a proven success in Europe, centralization allows each terminal to remotely maintain constant onboard communication with a central monitoring station. From the central station, parking managers download information on maintenance, revenue and usage requirements; can raise and lower rate structures automatically in response to special events; and receive up to 100 different real-time alarms to alert them to tampering, maintenance needs, or a full coin compartment.


Musicland G-Card

Musicland Stores confirmed Tuesday it will launch a new electronic stored value card in November. Musicland’s electronic gift card can be purchased and used in any of the company’s stores or Web sites once it is activated. In the future, the company will be able to create collectors’ cards depicting musicians, movies, actors and products all kinds of entertainment. The card can be used at all of the company’s retail stores including Sam Goody, Suncoast Motion Picture Company, Media Play and On Cue, as well as its four retail Web sites.


CardSystems Merger

CardSystems Inc. and Maverick International Processing Services Inc. have agreed to engage in a strategic merger to create a formidable new competitor in the global electronic payment processing marketplace. The combined company, which will operate under the CardSystems name, will offer end-to-end processing services to banks, ISOs and other transaction-oriented companies. Utilizing an ‘Application Service Provider’ model and the combined strengths of the two companies, CardSystems says it will offer affordable, scalable solutions to the electronic payment processing industry. Leveraging the company’s existing data center, CardSystems’ suite of ‘eCardSMART’ applications will be hosted on servers that can be accessed by card issuers, acquirers and processors via a web-based user interface. Corporate headquarters will remain in Fairfax, VA. John Cramp will assume the role of chairman and CEO of the combined entity. John Hunnicutt will serve as president, Electronic Delivery Services, leading the company’s global processing expansion.


The Credit Store Execs

The Credit Store, Inc. announced Tuesday that it has expanded its executive management team.

William G. Buriak, 45, is The Credit Store’s new Chief Information Officer. Buriak will direct the Company’s daily technologies operations from Sioux Falls, including technologies that support client and portfolio accounting, data warehousing, office systems, the local area network, and investor reporting. Buriak oversees a staff of 55 persons. He reports to Kevin T. Riordan, The Credit Store’s President and Chief Operating Officer.

Jonathan L. Pike, 38, is The Credit Store’s new Senior Vice President of Operations. Pike’s responsibilities include management of the Company’s account servicing and transaction operations, operations security, non-card resolutions of assets, and new business development. Pike oversees a staff of approximately 150 persons. He also reports to Riordan.

“We are extremely pleased to attract the strong and experienced talent of Bill Buriak and Jonathan Pike to The Credit Store,” said Martin J. Burke III, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “The Credit Store’s success and increasing flow of business necessitates expansion of our top level management. Buriak and Pike are welcomed additions to our team.”

Buriak and Pike join The Credit Store’s executive management team of Burke, Riordan, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Michael Philippe, Executive Vice President and General Counsel Richard Angel, Senior Vice President Cindy Hassoun, and Patrick Steffl, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Portfolio.

The Credit Store, Inc. is a nationwide financial services company engaged in the acquisition and recovery of non-performing consumer receivables and the origination and servicing of credit cards. The Company acquires portfolios of non-performing consumer receivables and originates new credit cards to those consumers who agree to pay all or a portion of the outstanding amount due on their debt. The new card is issued with an initial balance and credit line equal to the agreed repayment amount. After appropriate seasoning, The Credit Store attempts to sell or securitize the credit card receivables generated by its business strategy.


Bill Buriak comes to The Credit Store with an extensive background in financial services, insurance, mortgage origination, e-commerce, credit cards, relationship banking and consulting. From 1996 to July 1999, he was Director of Management Information Services and Director of Business Office Operations at CCDM, a non-profit healthcare system based in Perth Amboy, NJ. Prior to CCDM, Buriak had 13 years’ experience with Beneficial Financial Corporation, Peapack, NJ, where he was responsible for strategic planning and technical product development. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh in economics and earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix in information technology management.

Jonathan Pike brings The Credit Store his extensive experience in risk management and credit operations management. From November 1997 to July 1999, he was Vice President of Credit Risk for Stage Stores, Inc., the Houston, TX-based apparel and footwear retailer. Prior to Stage Stores, Pike was Director of Strategic Marketing, Director of Risk Management and Credit Operations Manager within the Retail division of First Data Corporation, Omaha, NE. Jonathan is a graduate of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, in business administration.


Providian Roll-back

Trying to further repair its bruised image with cardholders, Providian Financial confirmed yesterday it has rolled back its foreign currency transaction fee. Providian says it has reduced the fee from 5% to 3%. The fee includes the standard 1% fee charged by VISA and MasterCard for converting foreign transactions to U.S. dollars. Less than one year ago, a few major issuers began adding a 2% surcharge on foreign transactions over and above the standard 1% VISA/MasterCard fee. To date, Citibank, Bank One/First USA, and Chase Manhattan have added a 2% surcharge on foreign transactions. Providian was the only issuer in the U.S. to add a 4% surcharge. According to CardTrak ([][1]), most issuers do not add a processing fee to foreign transactions. Providian said it made the move to “enhance customer satisfaction”.



GO Network MasterCard

Infoseek Corporation (Nasdaq:SEEK), home of GO Network ([][1]), announced the launch of its own branded affinity credit card, the GO Network MasterCard, now available at [][2]. Infoseek created the GO Network MasterCard with its issuing partner, MBNA America Bank N.A., to offer a unique array of high-quality benefits and services for consumers. The GO Network MasterCard gives cardholders the ability to use their card virtually anywhere around the world, at anytime, online or offline. In addition, cardholders will be rewarded for using the card through the newly-created GO Awards(TM) Program. Through the GO Awards Program, GO Network cardholders will accrue points every time they use the card for purchases. GO Awards points will be redeemable for merchandise offered by leading national brands and merchants as well as for GO Network brand products.

“Everyday at Infoseek, we deliver valuable products and solutions to millions of GO Network users. The GO Network MasterCard does just that by giving online and offline users a unique e-commerce solution they didn’t have before,” said Harry Motro, president and CEO of Infoseek. “Cardholders can purchase everything from airline tickets to books to jewelry to toys. Like GO Network, this program helps connect people to the things they care about most.”

“Our partnership with GO Network continues our commitment to have a significant presence on the Internet and to offer products and services that add value to the lives of our customers,” said John R. Cochran, Senior Vice Chairman of MBNA. “We are thrilled to be working with a leading portal provider, and we see the GO Network MasterCard as a great offering for millions of GO Network users.”

GO Network MasterCard Features

As part of a continuing commitment to e-commerce and to further extend the GO Network brand, the GO Network MasterCard features a 3.9% introductory Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for cash advance checks and balance transfers and no annual fee. The new program offers both the Platinum Plussm and Preferred credit cards.

Charge and Earn At The Same Time

Along with the GO Network MasterCard, GO Network is featuring its new GO Awards program for active GO Network members. The program allows active GO Network members to join today and start earning GO Awards points redeemable for top quality merchandise available through the exclusive GO Awards catalog. Each dollar in purchases charged with the GO Network MasterCard account will earn one GO Award point. The GO Awards Catalog currently offers everything from mountain bikes, to personal organizers, MP3 players, and more. Users are automatically enrolled in the GO Awards program when they apply for the GO Network MasterCard. Later this year, GO Network users will be able to earn points through activities across participating GO Network sites including,,,,, and NASCAR Online.

24-Hour Customer Service and Safe, Online Shopping

The GO Network MasterCard program offers world-class customer service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. GO Network cardholders will also have online access to up-to-the minute credit card account information at [][3] and easy, online access to their GO Awards points summary at [][4]. The GO Network MasterCard also offers protection against fraudulent activity related to the card.

About Infoseek

Infoseek Corporation (Nasdaq:SEEK) is the home of GO Network, a premier global media network that offers consumers solutions for everyday life by combining integrated Internet services with leading consumer brands. Now one of the top five sites on the Internet, GO Network was launched in January 1999 by Infoseek, in partnership with The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS), and is the online home of leading world brands such as for news, for sports, and for kids and family, Infoseek for search, and and for entertainment.

In addition, Infoseek licenses its Ultraseek Server search and navigation software to companies for their own intranet, extranet and Internet sites. Infoseek is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif. For more information about Infoseek, please visit Infoseek’s corporate Internet home page at [][5] or to request additional information about Infoseek, call our Investor Relations Request Line at 408/543-6960 or visit our investor relations Web site at [][6]



Asta 3Q/99 Sales

Asta Funding, Inc. Tuesday announced that the Company sold approximately $380,000,000 of distressed Master and Visa card receivables to several purchasers during the quarter ended September 30, 1999. The Company realized approximately $9.35 million from these sales and is currently working on additional loan sales of similar accounts. The Company purchased approximately $1.36 billion of charged-off Master and Visa accounts in March 1999 and is actively seeking additional portfolio acquisitions.

Gary Stern, President and Chief Executive Officer of Asta stated, “The sale of loans for the quarter ended September 30, 1999 is both a positive step and is consistent with our strategy of selling, managing and servicing distressed receivables. In addition, we are currently negotiating additional sales on an ongoing basis and I am very pleased with the collections on the unsold accounts to date.”

Asta Funding, Inc., located in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is an emerging industry leader in the distressed consumer receivables liquidation business.

Except for historical information contained herein, the matters set forth in this news release are forward-looking statements. Although, Asta Funding, Inc. believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions, there can be no assurance that its expectations will be realized. Forward-looking statements involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from Asta Funding, Inc.’s expectations. Factors that could contribute to such differences include those identified in Asta Funding, Inc.’s most recent Form 10-KSB for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1998 and those described from time to time in Asta Funding, Inc.’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, news releases and other communications.



Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS), one of the nation’s leading merchant processors, is deploying more than 3,000 Hypercom(R) card payment systems throughout its retail and restaurant network. The deployment includes Hypercom’s new ICE 5000 and T8 card payment systems, as well as the company’s popular T7P terminal. Concurrent with the deployment, EMS has named Hypercom Corporation its exclusive provider of card payment systems.

“Hypercom’s solutions allow us to deliver an array of easy to use, value-packed, revenue- enhancing features and greater options at the point-of-sale that are second to none,” said John Rahilly, President, Electronic Merchant Systems. “We are delighted to offer these powerful solutions to existing and potential customers, and equally pleased to designate Hypercom as our exclusive electronic payment provider.”

Hypercom’s ICE 5000 is a powerful, multi-function touch-screen terminal incorporating a high-speed thermal printer, paper cutter, and Hypercom’s new FastPOS(TM) 9600 bits per second (bps) modem technology that completes transactions in under six seconds. Hypercom’s ICE 5000 provides a highly interactive and intuitive user interface that allows the support of complex transactions with minimum user training. When used in concert with Hypercom’s Ascendent(TM) Server Environment, the ICE 5000 also supports online advertising and electronic signature and receipt capture, storage and retrieval.

Hypercom’s recently introduced T8 is a low-cost, user-friendly card payment system that supports draft capture, debit, check and proprietary card processing and new payment vehicles such as chip card-based credit/debit cards and stored value cards, as well as PIN pads. Hypercom’s T8 is ideal for merchants seeking to upgrade from paper-based systems or who experience low transaction volume.

“Savvy processors, acquirers and merchants are quickly recognizing the need to add value to the basic card transaction, and that’s where Hypercom comes in,” said George Devitt, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing and Sales, US and Canada, Hypercom Corporation. “We are pleased to help EMS provide its merchants with state-of-the-art electronic payment solutions.”

Electronic Merchant Systems, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is a leading national provider of retail merchant services and turnkey E-Commerce solutions. EMS continues to drive the payment processing industry through a vast array of customized services and applications including EMS E-Commerce and EMS Create-A-Store. The EMS Internet address is [][1].

Hypercom Corporation (NYSE:HYC) is the single-source 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, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Venezuela. Hypercom’s Internet address is [][2].

Hypercom is a registered trademark of Hypercom Corporation. ICE, FastPOS and Ascendent are trademarks of Hypercom Corporation. All other products or services mentioned in this document are trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks or registered service marks of their respective owners.




Metris Companies launched another fee-based membership club Tuesday. The ‘TripSaver’ club offers travel discounts and a lowest-price guarantee. Benefits include a 5% rebate on all travel arrangements booked through Metris Travel Services Inc.; airline, hotel, rental car and bus line discounts; a toll-free travel hotline with special promotional offers, discounts and packages; and opportunities to receive discounts at over 80 national adventure and theme parks. Other member benefits include gasoline rebates; discounts on pre-trip auto maintenance, photo finishing and travel guides; one free night at a select Choice hotel per year; and cabin upgrades on designated cruise lines. Metris has developed a number of fee-based services and now has established relationships with more than 4 million customers holding credit cards issued by five of the top 10 card issuers.



First Data introduced the industry’s first stand-alone payment gateway, ‘SurePay’, supporting credit, check and cash payments over the Internet. In addition, the company announced the creation of the First Data Internet Commerce group, established to focus on development and management of Internet-based electronic commerce solutions and related initiatives across all First Data subsidiaries. ‘SurePay’ enables Internet merchants to accept and process their customers’ credit card transactions in real time and support all standard credit card types; accept and process customers’ check payments electronically in real time via TeleCheck; accept customers’ cash payments for Internet purchases via Western Union retail agent locations; and access enhanced fraud screening and merchant reporting.


Ad Spenders

American Express outspent VISA in advertising during the first half of this year according to data released Tuesday by Competitive Media Reporting. Industrywide, ad spending was up 6.9% for the first half of 1999 as compared to 10.6% in 1998, the increase was lower than any in the last five years. During the first six months of 1999, American Express spent $148.6 million on advertising, a 6.7% increase over the same period last year. However ad spending for the American Express card actually dropped from $83.0 million last year to $80.3 million this year. VISA USA shelled out $119.7 million this year, a 6.5% increase over 1998. VISA’s spending for credit cards dropped 16.7% over the past year, from $63.6 million to $53.0 million, according to CMR. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter spent $116.9 million so far this year on ads, about double what it spent last year. Of the $116.9 million MSDW spent, $34.1 million was advertising for the Discover brokerage. CMR did not break out expenditures for MSDW’s Discover card product.