AmEx Brokerage

American Express Company announced Tuesday plans to launch American Express Brokerage — a service that combines innovative online investing and financial planning tools with access to a financial advisor and attractive online pricing, including free equity trades for account holders with minimum balances. American Express Brokerage will be available later this fall.

American Express Brokerage () provides the tools for online investing that customers value most, including the ability to open an account instantly, a broad choice of mutual funds, real-time quotes and comprehensive market research. In addition, American Express Brokerage provides access to financial planning and advice tools and services, online or in person, unparalleled in the online brokerage marketplace.

“American Express Brokerage lets our customers invest when, where and how they want,” said Doug Lennick, executive vice president, Advice and Retail Distribution Group, American Express. “Clients can ‘do-it-themselves’ with the help of our interactive tools and proprietary research, or they can use American Express Brokerage with the help of an experienced, professional American Express financial advisor.”

“Our new online brokerage represents an important step forward in establishing American Express as a leader in online commerce,” said Ruediger Adolf, senior vice president, Strategic Planning and Business Development at American Express. “It is a key part of our Internet strategy and complements a series of recent introductions, including Membership B@nking — a direct bank with attractive rates and quality service — and Blue — a new card with special features for people interested in shopping online.”

Features of American Express Brokerage include:

* Low-cost equity trading. Online equity buys are free and sells are $14.95 with a minimum account balance of $25,000. For account balances over $100,000, online equity buys and sells are free. With an account balance of less than $25,000, buys and sells are each $14.95. All equity buys and sells over 3,000 shares have an additional charge of three cents per share. Bond and option trading will also be available.

* Mutual fund choice. Through American Express Brokerage, customers will be able to choose from more than 2,000 mutual funds from more than 260 of America’s best-known fund families.

* Comprehensive financial planning tools. The online financial planning tools provide comprehensive, interactive advice integrating the six areas of financial planning: retirement planning, financial position, investment planning, tax planning, estate planning, and protection planning.

* Access to American Express financial advisors. Clients can choose to work with an American Express financial advisor to get whatever level of advice and help they need. Advisors can provide comprehensive financial planning as well as advice on individual investments. Advisors will be able to offer American Express Brokerage as a tool for their clients, and Brokerage customers will be able to use an online advisor locator to find an advisor in their area.

* Cash management account. Customers with a minimum balance of $5,000 will have access to a cash management account. The account features free, unlimited check writing, unlimited debit card use and ATM access (with four surcharges per month reimbursed). Customers who have qualifying assets of $25,000 or more can receive an American Express Gold Card, with the $75 annual fee compliments of American Express. Gold Card charges will be debited from the cash management account monthly.

* Easy account opening. Qualified customers can open an account online immediately and begin trading in minutes.

* Information. Account holders will have access to real-time quotes, buy-side research from American Express Financial Advisors, and news and analysis to help make smart investment decisions.

* Service. American Express professionals will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to answer technical and investment questions at 1-800 AXP-8800, option 1.

* Other features include IRAs, competitive margin lending rates and free dividend re-investment.

American Express first introduced an online investing capability, Financial Direct, in 1996. Customers currently using that service will be automatically upgraded to the more comprehensive American Express Brokerage account.

To help investors make the most of these features, American Express Brokerage is the only online brokerage that provides comprehensive advice tools and the financial planning and advice expertise of American Express financial advisors.

“American Express Brokerage will be the only online brokerage backed by the level of comprehensive financial planning expertise available from American Express Financial Advisors,” said Lennick. “Comprehensive planning assures that our customers consider the impact of their investment strategies on their current financial position, tax situation, insurance needs, retirement plans and estate needs. Brokerage customers can work with a financial advisor to devise a comprehensive plan and can establish an ongoing relationship with their advisor as they use the tools and investments available through the brokerage to carry out their plan.”

American Express Financial Advisors (AEFA) is one of the nation’s leading financial planning companies. Through a network of more than 9,300 personal financial advisors, the company provides ongoing, long-term financial planning and high quality financial products to more than two million clients throughout the United States. AEFA is a unit of American Express Company ([][1]). Founded in 1850, American Express is a global travel, financial and network services provider.

American Express makes investment and financial planning services available through American Express Financial Advisors, Inc., member NASD and SIPC. American Express Company is separate from American Express Financial Advisors Inc. and is not a broker-dealer.

For more complete information on American Express Brokerage products, including fees and expenses, consumers may obtain a prospectus by calling 1-800 AXP-8800, option 1. Consumers should read before investing.

Investments are not insured by the FDIC, are not deposits or obligations of or guaranteed by a financial institution, involve investment risks including possible loss of principal. All deposit products and services are offered by American Express Centurion Bank, a federally insured financial institution.




Cardservice International, Inc. announced Monday evening that it has agreed to provide payment processing services to Lycos Inc..The alliance will enable merchants within the Lycos shopping area to establish a payment processing relationship with CSI and be selling online within hours. CSI also announced that KPMG LLP and CSI have joined up provide eCommerce business solutions to the small-business marketplace. The effort combines KPMG’s eCommerce transactions capabilities with Cardservice International’s small-business payment-processing capabilities. The first commerce service provider to endorse the partnership is Nexgen Solutions, a small business based in Silver Spring, MD.


Electronic Paycheck

Community West Bancshares announced Monday that its Electronic Paycheck subsidiary has filed a patent application covering a method of and system for making purchases over the Internet using an ATM card or credit card with a secure PIN. The company says it has been developing the technology for the past 15 months. Electronic Paycheck says it will unlock Internet purchases from untapped consumer segments such as teenagers because they do not have credit cards. The EP system will enable anyone to purchase a card, put money on it, and make secured Internet purchases utilizing a virtual PINPAD. The Electronic Paycheck software, which is based on Internet protocol, is currently being utilized for payments in the payroll, cruise line, network marketing, bill paying, check cashing and short-term consumer loan industries. In addition, Electronic Paycheck is now in the testing phase of a process to use its software and cards as part of a national loyalty card program, whereby customers earn reward points by patronizing participating merchants. Electronic Paycheck generates revenues based upon card issuance and ongoing transaction fees.


September Benchmarks

Delinquencies, chargeoffs and attrition edged up in September while annual fees, fraud and bankruptcy losses declined according to CardData ([][1]). Nevertheless bank credit card portfolio yields continue to rise as they have all year. Among issuers offering the lowest APRs Platinum cards now average 10.45%, Standard cards 11.29%, Gold cards 11.51% and Sub-Prime cards 17.41%.

Standard APR: 18.04% Delinquencies: 4.70%
Gold APR: 17.05% Chargeoffs: 5.08%
Platinum APR: 14.63% Attrition: 8.47%
Standard Fee: $18.40 Yields: 13.98%
Gold Fee: $36.16 Fraud Losses: 0.17%
Platinum Fee: $68.45 Bankruptcy: 41.3%

For explanation of methodology see CardData (special access fee applies)

Source: CardData ([][2])



Helms Joins UTM Board

UTM Systems Corp. (), a developer of electronic commerce payment facilitation technology, Monday announced that Luke Helms has joined its board of directors.

An industry veteran and vice chairman at Cleveland-based Key Bank, Helms will provide strategic leadership and industry insight to UTM Systems Corp. by drawing from his over 30 years of executive-level experience in the banking sector. UTM Systems Corp. is the developer of the UTM Machine, a first-of-its-kind hardware device that, when inserted into the floppy drive of any Internet-connected computer, works like an ATM to facilitate convenient and secure online transactions using a debit or credit card. The UTM Machine interfaces directly with banking institutions via the existing worldwide ATM networks and can be used with any existing e-commerce Web site. UTM Systems Corp. is currently in negotiation with several national banking institutions that will provide the UTM Machine free to customers.

“Luke Helms is among the most respected executives in the banking industry today,” said Robert Lee, president and founder of UTM Systems Corp. “His deep insight into the needs of the banking community will allow UTM Systems to better serve our bank partners, and to provide banking institutions with flexible technology that will help them grow their business in the Age of the Internet. We are honored and privileged to have Luke Helms join the UTM Systems board of directors.”

Currently responsible for commercial lending in the western U.S., as vice chairman Helms is an instrumental contributor to Key Bank strategies for expansion in the western U.S., including acquisitions and alternate delivery systems. Helms formerly served as vice chairman at San Francisco-based Bank of America where he was responsible for out-of-state banking activities in 11 western states with a combined customer base of 11 million and total deposits of $70 billion. Prior to that, Helms served Seafirst Corporation of Seattle as chairman and CEO, where he lead all bank operations and oversaw assets of over $12 billion.

Helms banking industry experience is coupled with extensive work in the Internet and technology arenas. Helms is a founding director of, an Internet service provider offering high speed and low cost Web service in 16 major U.S. markets, as well as a director at CCS Corporation, the leading independent nationwide supplier of non-bank ATMs in the U.S. He also is a past director of, an originator of financial products such as home loans and credit cards; was acquired by Providian Corp. in 1998.

About UTM Systems Corp.

UTM Systems Corp. (), based in Seattle, is focused on the delivery of Internet payment technology. The mission of UTM Systems Corp. is to bring the security and convenience of the ATM (automatic teller machine) experience to electronic commerce. The flagship product of UTM Systems Corp., the UTM Machine, is a hardware device that slides into any computer’s floppy drive to facilitate e-commerce payments at any existing online merchant site. The UTM Machine conveniently and securely facilitates online credit and/or debit card transactions directly with the cardholder’s financial institution via the existing worldwide ATM networks. UTM Systems Corp. can be contacted at 425/451-8585.


Marbles Game

A small British public relations firm, called Marbles, is standing firm in the face of a multi-million dollar launch of a new Internet credit card for the UK, also called marbles, by Household Finance Corporation’s UK arm, HFC Bank.

“We’ve always known it’s a good name – we’ve traded successfully with this brand for more than eight years,” says Jan Stannard, joint managing director of Marbles, “so we’re not surprised that someone else has decided to use it.”

“However, it is interesting they have launched marbles as an online brand when we own the domain name, [][1]. We will not be changing our brand or Internet domain, and we do regret the confusion that will inevitably be created when consumers come to our site by mistake, through no fault of ours.

“We are surprised that, from the initial press coverage we’ve seen, they have used a visual identity for the card that is remarkably similar to our logo, which has been in continuous use for eight years.”

Marbles is one of the country’s best-performing PR agencies, known for its work in the consumer and technology sectors. The Internet is a particular strength.



Web Merchants

Books, CDs and bidding services continue to dominate the top Internet merchant rankings according to NextCard’s ‘eCommerce Index’. The NextCard index is a monthly listing of the top 25 online merchants and the top 10 movers based on the number of online purchase transactions by approximately 100,000 ‘NextCard VISA’ customers.

September Top 5 Online Merchants
Rank Movement Merchant
5. -2 BUY.COM

Source: NextCard eCommerce Index


Polish Private Label Card

PaySys International, Inc. announced Monday that Finplus has licensed the ‘VisionPLUS'(TM) card management system and the data warehouse product ‘Infosource’ to roll-out the first private-label card program in Poland. Finplus is a joint-venture between Cofinoga, one of the largest private-label card issuers in Europe, and Poland’s Bank Slaski. Finplus, which will use ‘VisionPLUS’ for its card issuing and merchant acquiring operations, will be one of the first PaySys clients to go live on ‘VisionPLUS’ in Central Europe. PaySys entered the European market one year ago.


ICQ Phone Card

Net2Phone Inc. the leading provider of Internet telephony services, and ICQ, the world’s largest online communications community and an interactive brand from America Online Monday unveiled the “ICQ Phone Card Powered by Net2Phone,” a virtual pre-paid calling card that routes calls over Net2Phone’s IP network.

The card, available at, will initially offer telephone calls from the United States to anywhere in the world at rates up to 70% less than traditional phone cards. The companies plan to make the cards available to ICQ users in 19 additional countries in the coming months.

This announcement is the first in a series of initiatives under a four-year agreement between Net2Phone and ICQ to provide a suite of Internet telephony services to ICQ customers, including PC-to-phone, PC-to-PC, and phone-to-PC services.

ICQ Phone card users will be able to sign up for phone service online and check their account status online at [][1], where they can access their call history and billing detail. Users will also be able to recharge their accounts online.

Rates for the ICQ Phone card are 4.9 cents per minute for domestic calls using local access (currently available in most metro areas), and 7.9 cents per minute for domestic calls using toll free access. International rates are as low as 9 cents per minute. Users will receive 30 minutes of free domestic minutes after an initial $10.00 purchase. The ICQ Phone card will be marketed directly to ICQ users through links and banners from ICQ’s home page at [][2].

Ariel Yarnitsky, Co-GM of ICQ Israeli Operations, said: “We’re extremely pleased to offer this convenient and cost effective international phone service to ICQ registrants as the first in a series of Internet telephony offerings. ICQ and Net2Phone are poised to take instant communications between ICQ registrants to the next level. Be it phone-to-PC, PC-to-phone, or PC-to-PC, we’re going to make it cheaper, faster, and easier than ever before.”

Howie Balter, CEO of Net2Phone, said: “This new co-branded Internet phone card will help pass on convenience and cost savings to the registered users of ICQ. We are very happy to be working with the world’s largest online community of more than 42 million registrants to provide value-added and top quality service and look forward to launching our new co-branded products in the months to come.”

About ICQ

Created in 1996 by the Israel-based company, Mirabilis, and acquired by America Online, Inc. in June 1998, the ICQ proprietary interactive service is the world’s largest communications community with more than 42 million registrants worldwide. The ICQ service is a communications portal built around the ability to seek and communicate with your friends, family and colleagues online. ICQ’s unique, very popular, free software (available for download at [][3]) is loaded with vital and fun communications tools such as its flagship instant messaging and real-time chat features, plus Web functionality such as ICQ iT! search, and ICQ White Pages, which allow members to find like-minded members within the ICQ community. ICQ is part of the AOL Interactive Properties Group.

About Net2Phone

Net2Phone is a leading provider of voice-enhanced Internet communications services to individuals and businesses worldwide. Net2Phone enables people to place low-cost high quality calls from their computer, telephone, or fax machine to any telephone or fax machine in the world. Net2Phone develops and markets technology and services for IP voice and e-commerce solutions for the web and other IP networks. For more information about Net2Phone’s products and services, please visit [][4].



Lending.Com System

Atlanta-based InfiLink Corp. launched a streamlined version of its Internet and interactive voice response loan application system. The ‘’ system enables lenders, including issuers of bank credit cards, to offer around-the-clock loan application capability to customers and prospects through the lenders’ own web sites and unique toll-free phone numbers. Consumers are connected directly to a personalized ‘Loan Center’ web page, where the automated loan support system immediately processes the loan request. InfiLink’s automated system captures data from the applicant; accesses the designated credit bureau for the applicant’s credit file and score; and evaluates the applicant’s qualification status according to lender-designated criteria. Loan prospects learn the status of their applications within 60 seconds. Information about each loan application is then faxed to the lender. InfiLink says it can have a financial institutions online within 30 days with Internet and IVR capability. InfiLink Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of InfiCorp Holdings Inc., provides loan pre-qualification and pre-approval services to more than 200 banks, credit unions, mortgage companies and consumer service groups. InfiLink was formed in mid-July following the acquisition by InfiCorp Holdings of the Internet, telephone marketing and credit application services division of NJ-based The BISYS Group, Inc.