BannerDirect Unbound!

In a week replete with announcements of new hires, BannerDirect added three new positions to its rolls. After a watershed year, the direct marketing firm announced today that it has created the three new positions in order to satisfy the increasing demands of its growing business. “Banner Direct has surpassed its expected goals in such a manner as to demand the introduction of these new positions,” said Christine Fontana, president.

The new positions are strategically located across the country and include creative director for the production division in Wilmington, NC andearlier this week BannerDirect named Kinga Baransky to fill this post; Richard Mcintosh has been placed to conduct accont management, and will be operating out of the marketing firm’s headquarters in New York, NY; and working from the sales and marketing base in Milwaukee, WI, Rosalyn Piecka has been named strategis development manager.

“It became evident during the course of the past year that BannerDirect was expanding beyond its previous limitations and stretching its boundaries,” said Ms. Fontana. “This staff development will not only ease our collective workload but will galvanize the business further in ways we can’t even begin to imagine!”

As an agency devoted primarily to direct response marketing for financial, entertainment, oil, and retail companies, BannerDirect, Inc. was founded in 1990. The company is a full-service direct marketing agency, developing response marketing via direct mail, with a concentration on the credit card industry — from acquisition, to product fulfillment, to incentives for activation and usage. Its specialty is in bringing co-branded and affinity cards to the public, and in developing both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing lans. As today’s announcement attests, BannerDirect is ever expanding, not only of a client base in different industries and exciting catagories, but its employee-base as well. The company is geographically positioned to meet the needs of its clients with corporate headquarters in New York City, production management headquarters in Wilmington (NC), and account management offices in Milwaukee (WI), New York City, and Carson City (NV).

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Retail Card Securities

In step with consumers’ appetite for credit, retail credit card usage has gained momentum in recent years, with total outstanding receivables fast approaching $100 billion.  With traditional programs flourishing and acceptance of retail commerce and card programs taking hold on the internet, Fitch IBCA expects retail and private label lending to proliferate further in the coming years.

As retail and private label card issuers increasingly turn to the securitization markets to fund their growing portfolios, the need for consistent analysis across all credit card portfolios has arisen.  As such, Fitch IBCA is releasing its criteria for rating securities backed by retail and private label card portfolios entitled “Retail Card ABS in the New Millennium.”

Among retailing giants like Sears, Roebuck and Co. and JC Penney, lie specialty players such as The Limited, Inc., Pier 1 Imports, and Circuit City Stores, Inc. and others that issue proprietary cards to purchase their goods and services.  In addition, many banks and finance companies issue private label cards tailored specifically for retailers without the capacity or desire to run their own portfolios.

The programs benefit issuers, cardholders, and merchants alike.  For retailers, proprietary cards function as effective marketing tools helping to increase sales and build customer loyalty.  For consumers, the programs provide alternative and often attractive financing options, many of which include discounts on purchases, deferred payments, and rewards-type programs.

Fitch IBCA’s criteria used in rating retail card ABS transactions generally follows that used for rating portfolios backed by general purpose Visa, MasterCard, and Discover portfolios.  However, the need to account for corporate bankruptcy issues and industry, merchant and geographic concentrations in retail and private label card ABS gives rise to additional stresses and assumptions when setting appropriate credit enhancement levels. The new report highlights the key differences Fitch IBCA’s general purpose and retail card ABS analysis and details reasoning used in arriving at its assumptions for both.

Copies of the new report “Retail Card ABS in the New Millennium” and Fitch IBCA’s general-purpose credit card criteria titled “ABCs of Credit Card ABS,” are available on Fitch IBCA’s website at [www.fitchibca.com][1] or by calling 800-753-4824.

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

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Exclusive Online Card

One of the largest on-line marketing deals was sealed yesterday between America Online and First USA. The five-year agreement is anticipated to generate up to $500 million if expected thresholds are met, and contains significant guaranteed revenue to AOL and significant marketing commitments to First USA. With yesterday’s agreement, First USA becomes the exclusive marketer of credit card products and services on AOL, the CompuServe service, AOL.COM and AOL Instant Messenger in the U.S. and Canada, and will also market products and services on a non-exclusive basis within AOL’s Digital City. Wednesday’s agreement extends the AOL/FUSA relationship that began in 1996 with the introduction of the ‘AOL VISA’ card. America Online has more than 15 million paying subscribers and CompuServe has about 2 million paying members. Based on current industry intelligence AOL attracts about 31 million on-line visitors each month.

                            WEB  TRAFFIC  LEADERS
                      Internet Firm        Monthly Visitors
                     America Online:         30.9 million
                     Microsoft               27.7 million
                     Yahoo                   27.2 million
                     Lycos                   25.6 million
                     Netscape                17.2 million
                     Excite                  17.1 million
                         Source: BlueJag’s WebStuff

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Egg Card U.K. Contract

De La Rue Card Systems, one of the world’s leading suppliers of smart cards, electronic transaction solutions and identify systems, has signed a contract with Egg – Prudential’s 24-hour direct banking service – to supply banking cards for its growing customer base.

Selected for its heritage and expertise in providing secure banking solutions, De La Rue will be supplying customers with Egg magnetic stripe cards for use at either Midland Bank ATM’s or The Royal Bank of Scotland ‘Cashline’ ATM’s throughout the United Kingdom.

Geof Hanley, Project Manager, Egg, comments: “With other cards products to follow, Egg sees De La Rue as the ideal partner to drive the transition from magnetic stripe to microprocessor (smart) cards. Potentially allowing applications such as banking, loyalty, pension and insurance policy details to be loaded onto one card, smart cards will provide essential customer information for sales and marketing purposes and offer Egg customers a convenient and easy to use transaction card.

Ian Robson, President Northern Europe, De La Rue Card Systems, adds “This is an exciting time for both Prudential and DO La Rue as we are at the brink of a new banking revolution that will bring enhanced benefits to card users. We feel that this is just the beginning of Egg’s innovative banking offerings and look forward to working with Egg on the introduction of chip-based cards.”

Launched earlier in October, Egg offers savings, loans and mortgages over the telephone and Internet, aiming to meet the requirements of all age groups. Egg is designed to provide a flexible and comprehensive range of services, creating tailored solutions for individual financial needs, all at market leading rates.

Prudential’s commitment to Egg is reflected in its investment of 1,500 new jobs, to be created over three years, at its purpose-built Derby call- centre.

Staff undertake a thorough eight-week training programme, where they are fully instructed in the art of listening rather than selling. As staff complete their training and begin to speak with Egg customers, they possess the right ‘people’ skills to identify the particular needs of each individual.

Recognised as the number one provider of Visa and MasterCard products worldwide, De La Rue’s expertise in providing secure and innovative smart banking solutions is supported by the recent announcement by APACS (the Association for Payment Clearing Services) that debit, credit and cash cards issued by UK banks will be ‘smart’, following the successful completion of trials with over 1 00,000 De La Rue smart debit/credit cards.

De La Rue Card Systems – part of De La Rue the `cash to cards` group whose 1998 annual turnover was GBP 790.2M – supplies almost 500 million magnetic stripe and microprocessor based smart cards each year and has produced over 500,000 point of sale terminals worldwide. The world’s leading supplier of VISA and MasterCard products, De La Rue Card Systems also holds manufacturing Licenses from Europay, Mondex, Diners Club, APACS (UK Banks), GIE Cartes Bancaires (French Banks), American Express and others. Specialising in third party card integration and customer solutions for banking, telecoms, PayTV, retail, transport, health and identification markets, it also offers total end- to-end solutions for electronic and mobile commerce applications. Its vision is that ‘by 2005, 10% of the world’s population will possess a De La Rue smart card’.

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U.K. GM Card Phone Perk

The GM Card has launched a new country-wide initiative called GM Call 1861, open to all its cardholders, which is set to, reduce call costs by 30%, irrespective of whether calls are made to local, national, international or even mobile phone numbers.

By teaming up with WorldxChange Communications’, The GM Card has created a new free service – once cardholders have registered, they simply dial 1861 prior to making a call to automatically receive a 30% discount.

This new offer is an additional benefit to GM Cardholders who already enjoy a competitive APR, and one of the best reward schemes on the market. When cardholders use their GM Card, 3% of the total purchase is credited to their GM Card Account as Rebate Points. Each Rebate Point is equivalent to GBP 1 and there is no limit to the amount that can be collected. A maximum of 2,500 Rebate Points per redemption can be used to save money off a new Vauxhall. The new GM Call 1861 offer fits in with the Card’s existing proposition as Richard Parker, Manager of The GM Card, explained: “The GM Card’s Rebate Points scheme, and the savings that can be made. provides our customers with significant amount of money off the price of a new Vauxhall.

“The new GM Call 1861 service works in a similar way

– it costs nothing to join, yet knocks 30% off call costs. And, because it charges your monthly bill to The GM Card, every time the service is used it earns Rebate Points for the cardholder – all. without any hassle or effort.”

To take advantage of these savings, apply for a GM Card by calling 0345 462777. Existing GM Cardholders should call freephone 0800 294 29 29 any time between 8.30am – 10pm weekdays or 9am-9pm weekends, with their account details to hand. Once cardholders have spoken to a GM Call representative, registration is effective immediately.

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Hotel Card War

Competition among frequent hotel guest card programs is heating up after yesterday’s unveiling of the new ‘Starwood Preferred Guests’ program. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., which now owns the Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis/Luxury Collection, Four Points, Caesars, and W hotel chains, replaced the former ‘Sheraton Club International’ and ‘Westin Premier’ program with the new program. Starwood declared its new program the “most flexible and rewarding program of its kind” however it drew prompt criticism from competitors. (see CardFlash story #3 for today). Nevertheless public interest in the new program was too much for Starwood’s Web site. The Web channel detailing the program crashed last night and was still unaccessible early this morning. Among major features of the ‘Starwood Preferred Guest’: no blackout dates and no point expiration dates for active members, plus instant rewards and on-line award redemption. Under the new program it will typically take an average of three stays, or $1,000 in spending, for members to earn their first free weekend night. Members can also instantly redeem points on-line, track account information and access ‘Starwood Preferred Guest’ special offers via a special Web site. Travelers can also enroll in the program via the Internet and create their own personalized web page based on their travel preferences. Starwood cardholders may also transfer ‘Starpoints’ to most major airline carriers in any increment as well as an unlimited number of transfers within each membership year. Starwood has more than 550 participating hotels in over 60 countries. For details on the new program visit CardWatch ([www.cardwatch.com][1]).

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

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UCF Card Event

OH-based Huntington National Bank introduced its smart card program during a mass carding event held on the University of Central Florida campus.  The event attracted more than 18,000 students, faculty and staff who lined up to be one of the first to receive the new ‘UCF Card’. In addition to serving as an identification and library card, other functions include purchases at campus vending machines and photocopiers and pre-paid long distance phone service.  It also serves as the users’ ATM card for their Huntington checking account. To date, the bank has issued 24,000 ‘UCF’ cards and opened 2,500 UCF accounts.

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Green Light

HONOR Technologies Inc. and Star System Inc. Wednesday announced that they have received Federal Reserve approval to merge. Following a shareholder vote, the two companies are slated to merge on Mar. 1. The company will be privately held by the 52 current owners of HONOR Technologies Inc. and Star System Inc.. The new company will serve in excess of 3,700 financial institution members with a primary service area covering 20 states across the country. More than 70,000 ATMs and 250,000 POS locations will be part of the newly formed network.

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AmEx Rewards Expansion

American Express also announced yesterday it is beefing up its ‘Membership Rewards’ program with the addition of several new partners. The new partners are:  Borders Books & Music, Champs Sports, Coach, Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, The NBA Store, Royal Doulton, Samsonite Company Stores, The Sharper Image, Zany Brainy and Avis and Cathay Pacific Airways in the travel category. The AmEx program, launched in June 1991, now has more than 3 million enrollees. ‘Membership Rewards’ points, which do not expire, can be redeemed for airline rewards beginning at 1,000 points and for merchandise rewards beginning at 2,500 points.

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VISA Biz Reports

First Data Resources became the first card processor to offer its commercial card issuers ‘VISA Business Spending Reports’. The reports provide quarterly and year-to-date transaction activity for small business cardholders. The reports include a cardholder detail report, which displays transaction detail by merchant category code group; a cardholder summary providing total dollars billed by month and merchant category code group; and a company summary, which aggregates spending for all cardholders of the company. The First Data commercial card platform provides flexible and customizable billing, reporting, and authorization options for more than 65 commercial card issuers and more than 2.6 million small business, travel and entertainment and purchasing card accounts.

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E-Commerce Partners

Equifax Secure Inc., Tuesday unveiled the ‘Equifax Secure E-Commerce Partners Program’  aimed at providing a single, comprehensive resource for next-generation solutions to facilitate highly secure, private e-commerce over the Internet and other networks. The program includes organizations focused on Internet commerce, including security/privacy firms, systems integrators, independent software vendors and hardware providers as well as Internet service providers. Targeted independent software vendors and systems integrators will offer public key infrastructure-based applications dedicated to providing secure Internet communications. Equifax Secure partners will support a variety of applications, including secure electronic mail, secure forms, electronic data interchange, virtual private networks, supply chain management, credit/smart card processing/applications, internet banking, and remote secure access or single sign-on.

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Discover Valentine’s

Online community, theglobe.com, announced yesterday it is offering a special Valentine’s Day area sponsored by the Discover Card.  “Passport To Love,” which features virtual islands that users can visit for a myriad of interactive experiences, will include a special section sponsored by Hewlett Packard where members can choose from over 1,000 free online greetings from Hallmark Cards. theglobe.com has about 2 million members and over 7.5 million users in the U.S. and abroad.

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