UniTransact Introduced

UniTransact Business Solutions, Inc. announced this week that it has signed a definitive agreement with Aaex Corporation, in which it will licence the Aaex proprietary E-commerce software solution.

The new unitransact.com webpage will include many features encompassing E-commerce, web page hosting, search engine, e-mail services and remote file storage. UniTransact.com serves small and medium sized business customers directly through this web site.

Merchants with existing credit card merchant accounts will use the UniTransact E-commerce system to accept purchase information online. Merchants will register and set up online. Those who do not yet have their own web site can, after registering with Unitransact.com, utilize the free web site service. Unitransact.com is set up to automatically create and host a new web site for the merchant. The web site can also be updated with new merchant information online, anytime. Alternatively, merchants with existing web sites can easily adapt their sites to utilize the Unitransact.com E-commerce solution. The total price for somebody using a basic web site is $40.00 US per month with no set up fee.

UniTransact’s user-friendly turnkey system features a centralized processing design which utilizes state of the art security and eliminates the need for expensive hardware and software purchases by customers wishing to process transactions over the Internet. Merchants only require a computer with dial up access to the Internet in order to utilize the system and accept credit card transactions over the Internet. All information is accepted at a secure central location and the results are distributed securely to customers. This enabling technology allows small and medium sized businesses to conduct E-commerce over the Internet in a secure and cost-effective manner. Small and medium sized companies can now reconfigure their business strategies around this new extremely low-cost electronic commerce solution in order to realize greater profitability. Companies that cannot afford expensive information technology departments and system maintenance can now sell products over the Internet.

UniTransact’s President Scott Marshall is quoted as saying, “There are several existing approaches to E-commerce. Some examples include 1) The Enterprise approach, which is a full service software and hardware solution that is geared towards businesses with very large transaction volume. The entry-level price is between $150,000 to $200,000 and expensive manpower is required to maintain these systems, 2) 3rd party clearing houses that perform credit card clearing on behalf of customers with per transaction charges of up to 5%, and 3) Credit card approval companies that issue tokens for credit card transactions that are only usable by other token users and issuers. Until UniTransact, there has not been a flat rate, inexpensive E-commerce solution with unique capabilities to meet the needs of small and medium sized business. UniTransact’s E-commerce solution will revolutionize small business sales cycles.”

For further information please contact the Company at 1-888-843-8857 or scottm@unitransact.com or visit the UniTransact Business Solutions Inc. web site at [www.unitransact.com][1].

These statements have not been approved nor disapproved by any stock exchange, and may contain forward thinking information that may affect the timeliness and execution of the corporation’s business operations and affairs in the future. The statements in this press release are made so within the meaning of section 27A of the securities act of 1933 and section 21E of the Exchange Act of 1934 and are subject to the safe harbour created by these sections. Actual results may differ from UniTransact Business Solutions, Inc.’s expectations

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


Rapid Link

Atlanta-based Rapid Link Telecommunications launched a subsidiary Wednesday to offer prepaid calling card services targeting international communities in the U.S.. The firm began distribution of its prepaid cards in the New York metropolitan area last month and plans to expand its services across the nation by the end of 1999. The prepaid company caters primarily to the Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Caribbean communities living in the U.S. Rapid Link offers international callback, the ‘CommLink Calling Card’, ‘HomeLink’, ‘BusinessLink’ and ‘Rapid Link Carrier Services’ to more than 50,000 customers and partners worldwide.


CyberGold — EarthLink

Cybergold, Inc. said yesterday its private-label loyalty program is powering the MBNA/EarthLink VISA announced earlier this week. The CyberGold program pays consumers cash via the Internet for taking action both on the Web and offline. Under the new private-label offering, consumers receive .5% of the price of their purchases back whenever they use their EarthLink MBNA VISA cards, either online or offline. The cash rewards show up in their online Cybergold accounts. In addition, when consumers use their EarthLink MBNA VISA cards to shop at the EarthLink Mall, they earn 2% of their purchase price back. Once consumers have earned cash via Cybergold, they have three options for spending it: they can transfer funds to personal VISA cards under an exclusive relationship with VISA; they can deposit the money into their bank accounts; or they can donate it to a Cybergold partner nonprofit


Branding & Bucks

CitiGroup’s threatened migration to MasterCard from VISA appears to center more on association fees than the branding issue. As profit margins dwindle amid rising marketing costs and shifting cardholder behavior, CitiGroup, like its competitors, is seeking to lower all costs and spend more efficiently. VISA reportedly said CitiGroup paid $78 million in annual association fees to VISA during 1998. CitiGroup has made it clear it would rather fund the marketing of its own brand than subside, through VISA, marketing for its competitors. Even if CitiGroup gets what it wants from MasterCard, CitiGroup’s strategy is risky. To enter another card brand into the marketplace at this point in time comes with a very high price tag. Brand awareness is not something that is achieved overnight and consumers may ultimately find it confusing. Furthermore CitiGroup has a bad track record with brand building. Its efforts in the mid-80s to launch the Choice card was a disaster and it has only recently made any headway building the Diners Club brand. Discover, a branding success, also found out the hard way that cluttering the market with new brands and sub-brands does not work. Discover is now in the process of re-focusing on its Discover brand, shedding the sub-brand Bravo and pulling back on the Novus brand. American Express has also indicated that its Optima brand has really never connected with American consumers.


Edify Milestone

Edify Corp. announced yesterday at its annual ‘Edification ’99’ conference that Washington Trust Bank in Spokane has become the hundredth financial institution to license Edify’s ‘Electronic Banking System’. During the fourth quarter Edify made initial shipments of ‘Release 3’ of its ‘Electronic Banking System’, as well as the ‘Business Banking Suite’. With Release 3, Edify’s EBS now incorporates end-to-end support for online bill presentment and payment for a financial institution’s retail customers. Among Edify’s top clients: Chase Manhattan Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Harris Bank.


Metris Grants Stock Options

Metris Companies Inc., one of the nation’s fastest-growing direct-marketing companies, has announced a stock option grant to its more than 1,900 employees. Under the Ownership Bonus Program, once the options vest, eligible employees can purchase 100 shares of Metris stock at $50.31 per share, the fair market price as of December 31, 1998. The stock options vest on January 4, 2002 or when Metris stock closes at or above $100 per share, whichever comes first.

“This is an exciting day for our employees,” said Ronald N. Zebeck, Metris president and CEO. “It is important to me that every employee – no matter what their position – knows they will share in the future success of Metris Companies.”

With the Ownership Bonus Program, all eligible employees nationwide have an equity stake in the company. Other stock ownership opportunities available to employees include the purchase of stock through the Company’s 401(k) plan.

Metris Companies Inc. is an information-based direct marketer of consumer credit products and fee-based services primarily to moderate income consumers. Based in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Metris also has operations in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Baltimore, Maryland; Champaign, Illinois and Phoenix, Arizona and currently employs over 2,000 people.

Visit Metris on the Internet at [www.metriscompanies.com][1].

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


Nova 4Q

NOVA Corp.’s acquisition of PMT Services and the Corestates bank portfolio are paying off. The Georgia processor reported yesterday that fourth quarter revenues increased 57.7% to $322.7 million, up from $204.6 million for the same period in 1997. Operating income, before merger related charges and conversion expenses, increased 47.0% to $29.4 million, compared to $20.0 million from the fourth quarter of 1997. Net income before merger related charges was $15.2 million compared to $12.5 million for the fourth quarter 1997.


CCS Goes International

Card Capture Services, Inc. a leading independent ATM provider in the U.S., announces its expansion into international markets.  The company has hired a Director of International, and established satellite business offices in Montreal, and Mexico City under the names CCS Canada and CCS Mexico respectively.

International outlook

Consumer demand for convenient access to cash is particularly acute in developing countries where banks are limited and the majority of transactions are cash based.  The rate of new ATM deployments is increasing in the U.S. and the world, with the international market for new ATMs outpacing U.S. growth.

According to Dave Granco, president and CEO of Card Capture Services, “CCS has successfully developed a market for independent ATMs in the U.S.  We believe this expertise will translate in other countries.  The worldwide demand for convenient, safe access to cash is clear, and we now have the infrastructure in place to go forward.”

Opening of  Canadian Market Prompts Expansion

Due to changes in Canadian legislation enacted this year, for the first time, non-bank companies have been able to deploy ATMs in Canada.  Canada is a traditional first step for U.S. companies expanding internationally. According to David Cheveallier, director of international for CCS, “the opening of the Canadian market coincided with our interest in expanding internationally.  The timing was right.”  Card Capture Services opened CCS Canada in Montreal in third quarter 1997.  The office is staffed by three Canadians.

Established Mexican Company Joins CCS

CCS purchases privately owned Mexico City-based company, SEISA, in fourth quarter 1998.  Under the new name CCS Mexico, the company will lead development of the emerging independent ATM market in Mexico.  The company is staffed by 8.

Patricio Mangino and Manuel Mangino, formerly of SEISA, will lead CCS Mexico. Both possess over 20 years experience in the ATM and banking industries in Mexico.  Most recently they have been leading distributors for Diebold Inc. and Triton Systems ATMs in Mexico.

About CCS

One of the first independent ATM companies in the U.S., Portland, Oregon-based CCS has pioneered convenient cash access since 1993.  Today CCS is a leading U.S. ATM provider with 6,200 ATMs nationwide.  The company offers turn-key ATM programs to a growing base of retailers, banks and entertainment venues in North America.  For more information about CCS, visit the company’s web site at [www.CCSExpress.com][1].

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


Rocky Year

Plagued by a year of surprise accounting irregularities from its acquisition of CUC International, Cendant Corp. posted a strong fourth quarter and a surprisingly strong year in its individual membership segment. For the 4Q/98 Cendant reported a 27% increase in net revenue for membership and service fees from $1.1 billion for 4Q/97 to $1.3 billion for 4Q/98. For the year net revenue for membership and service fees rose from $4.0 billion in 1997 to $5.0 billion for 1998. The individual membership segment of Cendant’s revenues grew 31% last year. For 4Q/98 individual memberships logged in at $272 million versus $207 million for 4Q/97. Cendant markets its individual memberships to credit cardholders nationwide.


TSYS Wins GA Award

Citing its pursuit of excellence and outstanding overall achievements, Total System Services, Inc.  has been selected to receive the 1998 Georgia Oglethorpe Award for Performance Excellence.

About the award introduced in 1997, The Honorable Roy E. Barnes, Governor of Georgia, said “The Georgia Oglethorpe Award, which uses the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Criteria for Performance Excellence, involves rigorous organizational assessment and is Georgia’s highest level of recognition for organizational performance excellence.”

TSYS Chairman of the Board and CEO Richard W. Ussery said, “This award is an affirmation of the hard work and dedication of TSYS team members.  Providing the highest level of customer service, being the employer of choice, and creating value for our shareholders are essential components of our corporate culture.  We will continue to strive for quality improvements.  I’m very proud to be a members of this exceptional team.”

TSYS, along with the U.S. Army Infantry School and Center, Fort Benning, GA., will be recognized during the second Georgia Oglethorpe awards Banquet, to be help March 18, 1999, in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

TSYS Winning Attributes/Strengths:

1. Oglethorpe examiners found one of TSYS’ greatest strengths to be its sense of family and teamwork.  People Development Expoeal (PDE), a strategy for ensuring its values and culture are preserved throughout the company for generations to come.  Fortune magazine listed PDE as a primary factor in naming the Synovus family of companies, of which TSYS is the largest entity, as “The Best Company to Work for in America.”

2. TSYS has enjoyed strong financial performance since its inception, evidence by a stock return of two-and-a-half times that of the S&P 500 from 1983 1997. TSYS’ financial performance has gathered national recognition form such leading publications as Forbes, Business Week, and Fortune, and was named by Georgia Trend magazine as “ The Best Small, Publicly Held Company in Georgia.”

3. TSYS has twice received the regional award in the Corporate category from the Georgia Economic Developers Associates (GEDA), given to the company from each of the eleven economic development regions that made the greatest economic and/or social contribution to its community.  TSYS has also received the statewide GEDA award in the Corporate category for service to existing industry, given to the local economic development group that has the most outstanding existing industry program in the state.  Examples of TSYS’ winning initiatives include its partnership with Columbus State University, revitalization and renovation of historic sites, and supporting numerous charities like United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and Meals on Wheels.

4. TSYS and Columbus State University (CSU) have engaged in a joint effort called the Intellectual Capital Partnership Program (ICAPP), designed to help businesses and universities  solve business problems with intellectual resources.  CSU and TSYS are working together to educate develop sufficient numbers of mainframe computing professionals.  Since the program’s inception in 1990, more than 600 computer professionals educated at CSU have been employed by TSYS.

5. TSYS has an aggressive Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance schedule which has enabled the company to position itself for a larger share of the market, evidenced by the signing of several large clients in 1998, including Sears Roebuck & Co., the world’s largest retailer.  TSYS’ premier software systems, TS, is designed to be Y2K compliant.

6. TSYS is the only third-party processor with clients who are successful contenders for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) contracts. Recently, GSA awarded contracts to six card issuers for the next-generation government charge cards.  TSYS performed the necessary upgrades in 1998 to support the unique needs required under the new GSA contacts.  Today TSYS processes approximately 86 percent of the MasterCard and Visa USA commercial cards in the United States and 100% of the GSA-issued cards.

7. TSYS has developed and implemented a strategic supplier alliance program called PRIME, which consists of a supplier profile for selection purposes, a supplier performance report, supplier site visits, and supplier feedback mechanisms.  The success of PRIME has enabled TSYS to develop a supplier partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, the first of its kind in U.S. Postal Service history.

8. Visa and MasterCard have recognized TSYS as having the fastest authorization response times in the industry.  Since 1996, TSYS has received four VisaNet Processor Performance Awards for Lowest Assured transaction Response Rate and Lowest Purchase Authorization Response Time in relationship to its competitors.

TSYS ([www.totalsystem.com][1]) is one of the world’s leading information technology processors of credit, debit, commercial and private-label cards.  An 80.8% owned subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp ([www.synovus.com][2]), TSYS serves card-issuing institutions throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. Creating innovative processing solutions,  TSYS makes it possible for more than 117 million cardholders to use their cards and enables card-issuing institutions to profitably compete and better serve their customers through out world-class people, technology and service.

[1]: http://www.totalsystem.com/
[2]: http://www.synovus.com/


ATM Vision

EDS seized the opportunity this week at the Chicago Auto Show to showcase its ATM Vision solution. Thousands of journalists covering the event have the opportunity to see a 15-second ‘OnStar’ commercial while using an ATM in the media center. The General Motors ‘OnStar’ system combines global positioning and cellular technology to connect a vehicle and its driver to the 24/7 OnStar Center where advisors assist with anything from emergency situations to convenience services. In addition to the ATM placement at the EDS Media Center, the pilot program will run advertisements on Chicago ATMs during and after the auto show. It is expected that from February 15 through 28, 130,000 impressions will be shown across 138 Chicago ATM locations. EDS is also in the midst of a pilot program introducing technology that puts full-motion advertising in front of the consumer. The pilot is being tested on EDS’ proprietary ATMs in San Diego, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.


New ECHO Board Member

Electronic Clearing House Inc. Tuesday announced the appointment of Aristides W. Georgantas as a director to serve on ECHO’s Board of Directors.

Georgantas has served as executive vice president of Chase Manhattan Bank Inc., and chairman and chief executive officer of Chemical Bank New Jersey NA. Georgantas is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

“Mr. Georgantas has over 28 of years experience in banking, strategic planning and marketing,” stated Joel M. Barry, chairman and chief executive officer of ECHO. “He knows the financial services industry and we are extremely fortunate to have a director with his level of knowledge and management experience.”

“I am delighted to serve as a director of ECHO. I believe they have the capabilities in terms of key personnel, innovative products and communications expertise to be a leader in the financial services industry and I look forward to helping in any way I can,” stated Georgantas.

Electronic Clearing House provides credit card processing, check guarantee, inventory tracking services and various Internet services to more than 17,000 retail merchants and U-Haul dealers across the nation.

Through its subsidiary, Computer Based Controls, ECHO designs, develops and manufactures software and point-of-sale hardware that is utilized as credit card processing terminals, automated money order dispensers, utility bill payment systems, and inventory tracking devices.