Cap One Call Center

Capital One announced plans Monday to open a customer relations call center in Boise, ID.The issuer acquired assets of an existing call center run by American Direct Credit. Cap One immediately hired the center’s approximately 110 employees with plans to hire 400 additional employees by year-end 2000 at the Boise site. The company is currently building its first west coast facility just south of Seattle in Federal Way, WA.

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AmEx Sets Standard

American Express announced Monday the licensing of its smart card multiple application framework to more than a dozen industry players, including some of its direct competitors in the T&E industry. The licensees include: MasterCard, Discover Card, Europay, IBM, Microsoft, Orga Card Systems, Proton World, Sun Microsystems and others. AmEx said yesterday that VISA has also expressed its intent to license the multiple application framework. AmEx has used the multiple application framework in its smart card pilots with American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Hilton Hotels and IBM. In each of these pilots, corporate business travelers used smart cards to check-in to hotels and airlines as well as participate in advanced loyalty and rewards programs. The smart card framework contains a detailed description of the data, files and structure of the multiple functions and applications contained on a smart card. The framework currently supports: personal profile, corporate/government agency profile, airline, hotel, car rental, charge, credit and physical access. The multiple application framework builds on the global specifications put in place by EMV and incorporates relevant smart card standards, such as ISO and IATA. American Express also announced Monday the formation of the ‘Interoperability Consortium’, an independent and open body that will govern the multiple application framework standard.

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CheckFree GlitchFree

CheckFree confirmed Monday that it has identified and corrected the root cause of the system error that led some users of its e-billing/payment service to experience intermittent problems accessing and using the system. The error affected consumers who both attempted to access electronic billing and payment services through Intuit’s ‘Quicken’ or Microsoft’s ‘Money’ software, and who bank at financial institutions that process transactions on the firm’s newest processing system, ‘Genesis’. CheckFree traced the problem to application code in its middleware, which affected entry to the ‘Genesis’ system. The company says such problems are extremely difficult to detect in simulated stress testing and are not unusual as growth occurs. CheckFree acknowledge the problem could have affected up to about 20% of its 2.8 million subscribers. The glitch first made its appearance last Monday and was resolved by Friday. The e-bill company says it is preparing a thorough internal review of the system interruption and restoration events.

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Waiting Game

Tulsa, OK-based Commercial Financial Services was expected to name a buyer last week which was critical to the status of its forward-flow contracts. However as of yesterday no buyer has materialized. The list of the most promising bidders has reportedly dwindled to three: Worldwide Capital Inc., Household and GE Capital. Atlanta-based Worldwide Capital is owned by industry veteran Frank Hanna. Hanna also has connections with CompuCredit Corp. in Atlanta through his sons. CompuCredit is a sub-prime card issuer offering the ‘Aspire VISA’ card. The firm raised $54.8 million in an IPO two weeks ago.

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Qwest – CITGO Deal

Denver-based Qwest Communications announced Monday it has been selected as the preferred provider of prepaid phone card services for CITGO Petroleum. Qwest will now provide prepaid products and services to more than 15,000 of CITGO’s locations. Qwest says its three prepaid cards offering ‘S.A.F.E.R.’ functionality will be marketed through the deal. The three cards include: ‘Best Value’ cards; ‘TeleMinutos’ cards for calls to Mexico and Latin America; and ‘America’s Best’ for calls to Asia. ‘S.A.F.E.R.’ is a service mark and stands for “Secure Activation For Every Retailer”.

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NextCard eWallet

San Francisco-based NextCard and eWallet announced this morning a universal, one-click electronic wallet for cardholders. The ‘NextCard eWallet’ enables cardholders to purchase, with a single click of a mouse at hundreds of major online merchants. When cardholders download the ‘NextCard eWallet’ onto their desktop, their NextCard account, billing and shipping information will be loaded into the wallet. When cardholders shop online, they simply drag the ‘NextCard VISA’ icon over to the purchase form for completion. Instantly, all of their credit card and shipping information is automatically entered so the customer can complete the purchase without re-typing personal information. The ‘eWallet’ is password protected, resides on the cardholder’s personal computer and uses encryption technology to protect personal data. NextCard, launched in December 1997, is currently in the process of going public.

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Turnpike Pilot

PNC Bank and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have installed Touch Technology’s ‘CardTouch’ system to support a smart card program for employees at its main administration facility in Harrisburg, PA. Employees are using the card to access the toll road, gain entrance to the building and to make purchases in the cafeteria and at vending machines. The system uses a Gemplus hybrid card, which incorporates both contact and contactless chip technology.

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Tidel – BP Deal

Tidel Technologies announced this morning that one of its largest distributors, Financial Technologies, has formed an alliance with Red Crown Marketing to offer turnkey ATM packages to over 2,600 BP Amoco dealers and jobbers representing more than 15,000 stations nationwide. The BP Amoco ATM program will feature on-screen advertising, receipt-based coupons and, where available, receipt-based phone cards. FTI will introduce the ATM program this week to Red Crown member dealers and jobbers at the BP/Amoco show in New Orleans, LA.

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MoneyGram in Albania

People sending or receiving U.S. funds to or from Albania can now do it safely and easily through MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc.

MoneyGram, one of the world’s leading global money wire service companies, opened locations in both Tirana, the capital of Albania, and Durres in collaboration with the Savings Bank of Albania. Now consumers and businesses located in those Albanian cities are able to send and receive wired funds within 10 minutes.

MoneyGram officials said the unrest in the region has created hardships for many fleeing the area.

“During disasters such as this, typically you find that families and relatives are looking to help their loved ones, whether they are victims, troops, or working in relief agencies,” said Isaac Lasky, vice president, international business at MoneyGram. “There is always a need to provide funds in a safe, efficient and affordable manner, and this service allows families to send financial aid to the refugees and NATO troops in the Kosovo area.”

Lasky says the company received similar requests during last year’s hurricane in Central America and during Desert Storm in 1991. For more information about sending money to Albania, call 800-926-9400, or visit the web page www.moneygram.com.

MoneyGram, a subsidiary of Travelers Express Company, Inc., is the number two money-wire transfer company in the United States. The company has an international agent network of more than 26,000 locations in more than 120 countries, reaching virtually 80 percent of the world population.

A subsidiary of Viad Corp, Minneapolis-based Travelers Express is a leading processor of money orders, electronic bill payments and official checks. Viad Corp (NYSE: VVI) is a $2.5 billion company headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., that provides payment services, convention and event services, and airline catering.

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Taiwan Platinum

Chinatrust Commercial Bank launched the first ‘Platinum VISA’ in Taiwan last week. CCB says the card will become a “royal ID” for its customers. The CCB ‘Platinum’ program offers, among other features, information on international meetings/exhibitions. According to the Central News Agency in Taiwan the number of VISA cards in Taiwan passed the ten million mark also last week. For the first quarter 1999 VISA cardholders charged more than US$3.0 billion. Last year VISA volume exceeded $11 billion. VISA Platinum has also been introduced in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea in the Asia-Pacific market.

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Firstar Acquisition

Firstar Corp. signed a definitive agreement Friday to acquire Mercantile Bancorporation through an exchange of shares valued at approximately $10.6 billion. The combined company would become the 13th largest bank holding company in the USA, with assets of more than $75 billion, deposits of $59 billion, assets under management of $67 billion and a market capitalization of $32 billion. The combined company will also become the 25th largest issue of VISA and MasterCards, based on receivables, according to CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]). Firstar will also become the 10th largest ATM system with more than 2,000 ATMs.

FIRSTAR + MERCANTILE (4Q/98 stats)

RECV ACCTS ACTIVES CARDS
Firstar $1.3 billion 949k 798k 1.4m
Mercantile $633 million 476k 272k 490k
Combined $1.9 billion 1.5m 1.1m 2.0m

Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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

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Discover UK

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is coming ashore this month with the launch of its ‘Discover’ card in the UK. The card will offer a cashback feature, however, other details of the offer have not be made public. Discover will compete with the ‘Alliance & Leicester Moneyback’ card, the only card program in the UK currently offering a cashback feature. US-based Providian is set for its first credit card marketing pilot in the UK this month. Also British phone financial services company, Direct Line, launched its first card in the UK market two weeks ago. For details on the UK and Providian, Direct Line and other US-based issuers in the UK, see Friday’s (4/30/99) CardFlash ([www.cardflash.com][1]).

[1]: http://cardflash.com

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