MAC Glitch

EPS reported on Tuesday, Jan. 26, the MAC Network identified an isolated incident that affected certain cardholders who performed transactions between 12:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday, January 25. The company said the problem affected less than one-half of one percent of MAC cardholders and less than 4% of MAC financial institutions, located primarily along the East Coast. MAC said the problem caused cardholders’ transactions being posted more than once to their bank accounts. However  EPS says by Wednesday all affected financial institutions had the information necessary to correct their cardholder accounts.

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TU to HK

Trans Union confirmed Thursday it has bought a majority interest in Credit Information Services, the leading and largest consumer credit bureau in Hong Kong.  Simultaneously, Dun & Bradstreet has also bought a stake in CIS.  Trans Union expects the country’s largest banks, Hong Kong Bank and Hang Seng Banks, to participate in contributing credit information to CIS, making it the first complete Central Consumer Credit Reference Agency in Hong Kong.

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BannerDirect Hires Strategic Manager

Banner Direct of New York, NY, is pleased to name Rosalyn Piecka to fill the new position of strategic development manager starting January 26, 1999.  The new position was created in order to keep pace with growth plans and to take advantage of BannerDirect’s new opportunities.  Ms. Piecka will be reporting to Susan Lasley, senior vice president, and director of marketing.  “Rosalyn’s been a direct marketing professional for eight years, and her managerial experience in customer service and program development make her perfect candidate for this new position,” says Ms. Lasley.

Based in Milwaukee, WI, Ms. Piecka will be responsible for account management and supplemental support in developing strategic and creative recommendations for existing and potential clients.

“BannerDirect is a team of marketing professionals who work closely in partnership with each of our clients, to achieve successful cost efficient direct marketing strategies,” said Christine Fontana, President.  “Rosalyn will be a key player on this team.”

Rosalyn Piecka’s prior positions include senior direct marketing specialist for mellon bank’s consumer lending and affinity marketing as well as direct mail specialist for pnc bank’s marketing services.  She was also two-limes recipient of the Mellon Premier Achievement award.  Ms. Piecka relocated from Pittsburgh, PA to Greenfield, WI.

BannerDirect, Inc. Was founded in 1990 as an agency devoted primarily to direct response marketing for financial, entertainment, oil, and retail industries.  As a full-service direct marketing agency, the majority of BannerDirect’s business has been to develop response marketing via direct mail, with a concentration on the credit card industry-from acquisition, to product fulfillment, to incentives for activation and usage.  It specializes in bringing co-branded and affinity cards to the public, and in developing both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing plans.  BannerDirect is ever expanding its base of clients in different industries and exciting new categories.  The company is geographically positioned to meet the needs of its client based 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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QuikCash

Casino specialist Global Cash Access said Wednesday it will roll-out, within the next sixty days, a stand-alone credit card cash advance terminal that also offers POS debit to gaming patrons. ‘QuikCash’ features a Hypercom terminal with a touch screen and utilizing a client-server platform. ‘QuikCash’ is also smart card ready. In advance of the national roll-out to all 1,000+ GCA customer properties, Bally’s Atlantic City and the Claridge Casino Hotel in Atlantic City have installed and are using the new terminals. GCA was formed in mid-1998 through a joint venture of Bank of America, First Data Corporation and USA Processing, Inc. The company provides EFT services to more than 1,200 gaming properties nationwide.

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TRM ATM Deal

Portland, OR-based TRM Corp. announced yesterday it has signed a major agreement to be the exclusive ATM provider for The Pantry and Lil’ Champ convenience store chain. Once fully implemented, the seven-year agreement represents potential ATM installations at 1,100 locations and revenue for TRM of more than $10 million per year.  The Pantry and Lil’ Champ is the fastest growing major convenient store chain in the country with heavy store concentrations in NC, SC and FL. The current brand names for the stores include “The Pantry,” “Lil’ Champ,” “Quick Stop,” “QS,” “Express Stop,” “Dash N,” “Smokers Express” and “Sprint.”  In addition to its ATM services, TRM provides self-service convenience photocopy centers to a variety of retail establishments throughout North America and Europe, a total of 31,000 photocopy centers worldwide.

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Telstra Exec to GCA

Managing Director of Australia’s Telstra Payphone and Card Services, Mr John Stanton, has been elected to the board of the Global Chipcard Alliance (GCA), an international organisation which is developing global standards for smart card technology. Telstra is a principal member of the GCA.

Mr Stanton is currently overseeing Australia’s largest commercial introduction of smart card technology, as part of Telstra’s national rollout of new smart Payphone and smart Phonecard technology, which commenced in September 1997. In a global context, the Telstra smart card rollout has been one of the largest, accomplished in a tight time frame, with 10 million smart cards in the Australian market. A pilot retail application of Telstra’s smart card technology in Adelaide, South Australia, has been announced, and will commence in the first quarter of 1999.

Mr Stanton holds an MBA from Macquarie University, and has worked for Telstra for nearly 9 years. He was recently appointed to his present position.  His previous roles with Telstra were as General Manager, Americas and Satellite Arrangements, and General Manager, Corporate Relations. His experience will assist  the GCA board as it considers issues of interoperability, privacy, public advocacy, consumer education and security.

Formed in 1996, the main aim of the GCA is as a catalyst for worldwide interoperability of smart card systems, enabling consumers to access their personal applications solutions wherever they are in the world. In the future, this could lead to the international acceptance of Telstra smart Phonecards in GCA compliant systems and vice versa. The shared resources of GCA members will also facilitate better buying power and more research into interoperable system evolution.

The GCA is a strong representative body with regards to standardisation bodies and other influential bodies such as banking organisations. It has 29 members worldwide, comprising telecommunications companies such as Bell Canada, US West Communications, PTT Netherlands and Deutsche Telekom; financial institutions such as Visa and American Express as well as card vendors and card associations. The GCA is driving smart card technology toward a world standard, aiming to ensure international compatibility and reduced infrastructure costs.

Mr Stanton said the GCA has grown rapidly to become a powerful alliance of major global players in the smart card market, and has set a goal of achieving interoperability within 4 years.

“Telstra’s experience in telephony has highlighted the customer benefits of worldwide interoperability,” he said.

“I encourage all other smart card issuers to join this important organisation to help shape industry development, to benefit both the industry and consumers worldwide.”

The Board of the Global Chipcard Alliance (GCA) will meet next in London in late February 1999.

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Tax Volume

Imperial Bank’s Audiotex LLC said yesterday its IRS pilot program to accept credit cards for federal tax payments is up and running. Individual taxpayers can now pay the balance due on their 1998 Form 1640, 1040A or 1040EZ with their credit cards by calling 888/2PAY-TAX. The IRS awarded Audiotex a credit card processing contract last August. U S Audiotex charges a convenience fee to taxpayers who pay their income tax through this program. U S Audiotex, founded in 1986, currently processes credit-card payments for more than 250 counties and cities throughout the country.

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VISA Check Card II

The IBAA said yesterday that CA-based community bank, Saratoga National Bank, has officially become the first bank in the nation to issue the enhanced ‘VISA Check Card’. The new VISA debit card combines on-line and off-line debit card functions thus offering either PIN or signature-based transactions. Bank executives said the new card enables the bank to simplify by settling all transactions through one network and will increase revenue opportunities.

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eConnect Deal

eConnect and Global Entertainment Holdings/Equities Inc., Wednesday announced an agreement to use eConnect self-service terminals that accept credit cards, ATM cards and smart cards. Under the agreement, eConnect will install 5,000 of the self-serviced terminals in the next 12 months in public locations such as hotels, cyber cafes and malls to provide customers the flexibility to open accounts and make transactions with Global’s VIP Sports.com. Transactions are protected by ‘PERFECT’ or ‘Personal Encrypted Remote Financial Electronic Card Transactions’, which bypass the Internet and are processed by ET&T, a partner and shareholder in eConnect.

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AmEx Releases New Brochure

Smart consumers know that they should set financial goals in order to properly manage their finances throughout the year.  One sure fire way consumers can save money is by protecting their purchases against damage, theft, no-return policies and price changes. American Express offers the following tips to help you meet your financial goal and get a better return on your consumer purchases.

Protect purchases against damage and theft.

Expensive products like camcorders and video cassette recorders as well as everyday items such as washing machines and furniture can be accidentally broken.  But smart consumers can breathe a little easier because some credit card companies offer purchase protection plans.  These plans typically cover accidental damage and theft for a certain amount of time from the date of purchase.  Protection is usually limited to a specific amount per occurrence, in excess of other applicable insurance, so be sure to check in with your credit card company first.  For a free brochure on “Protecting Your Purchases,” consumers can send requests to American Express, P.O. Box 4635, Trenton, NJ 08650-9874.

Make your cybershopping experiences safe.

Shopping online offers a lot of benefits that you won’t find shopping in a store or by mail.  For example, the Internet is always open — seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and purchases can be made easily from the convenience of your own home.  If you’re not familiar with a company, ask for a catalog or brochure to get a better idea of their merchandise and services.  Also, make sure you know the company’s refund and return policies before you place your order.  For more information on safe cybershopping, you can also write for a free brochure entitled “Cybersmarts” from American Express at the address listed above.

Make sure you receive the lowest price.

Some credit card companies have programs that assure you the lowest price available on  covered products purchased entirely with your charge or credit card.  This guarantee generally applies if a cardholder sees the same item in a published, dated advertisement for a lower price, within a certain period of time of the purchase date.  Typically, the card company will refund the price difference, up to a predetermined amount per item, up to a preset annual limit.

Protect your purchases against no-return policies.

Some stores do not allow refunds on returned items — however your credit card may offer some protection against no-return policies.  For example, American Express Gold and Platinum(R) and Optima(R) Platinum Cards provide Return Protection, which gives refunds to Cardmembers for the full purchase price on items up to $300 per item, up to $1000 per year, within 90 days from the date of purchase if the store won’t accept returns.*

Do you need an extended warranty?

You may not need to buy additional warranties from the store or retail outlet on major purchases because some charge and credit card companies will extend the terms of the original manufacturer’s warranty.  This service can save you the expense of purchasing extended warranty programs at the time of purchase.  There may be some restrictions on coverage, so be sure to call your credit card company first.

Keep track of your store receipts.

Place your receipts in a safe location in your home because they serve as proof of the date and item you purchased.  Keep track of your Internet purchases by printing a copy of the purchase order and confirmation number.

Call your credit card company to find out if the card you are now using offers these benefits and services.  For more information about the benefits and services of American Express’ charge and credit cards, call 1-800-THE-CARD (843-2273).

* Purchases must be made in the U.S. and charged in full on the participating Card in good standing.  Refunds are limited to $300 per item and $1,000 annually per account.  The item must be in “like new” condition and working in order to be eligible.  An item is eligible if the store from which it was originally purchased will not accept a return.  Items purchased from stores with established return/satisfaction guarantee programs that provide coverage for that claim will not be covered under Return Protection.  Other limitations apply.  See terms and conditions, or call for full details.

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CheckFree & Countrywide

CheckFree and Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. , the nation’s largest independent mortgage lender, this week announced an agreement that will provide nearly 2 million Countrywide customers access to online electronic billing and payment through a central Web site of their choice.

Since 1998, Countrywide has offered its customers automated debit via the Countrywide Electronic Payment Service — powered by CheckFree’s robust payment infrastructure.  With this new agreement, Countrywide customers will also be able to receive their monthly mortgage statement electronically on their personal computers and pay it with a click of the mouse.

Countrywide’s Web site () currently allows borrowers to access their personal account information online. In early February, Countrywide customers will also have the ability to electronically pay their mortgage via the Countrywide Web site.  In the next few months, consumers will be able to send their Countrywide payment electronically by visiting the CheckFree E-Bill(sm) Web site () or the many other financial service providers’ Web sites that offer electronic bill presentment and payment.

“Countrywide prides itself on the technological prowess that has made us one of the top mortgage servicing companies today,” said Tom Boone, managing director of Countrywide.  “We continue to adopt the latest innovations, like CheckFree E-Bill, to offer our customers as many options as possible — not only for paying their mortgage, but for managing their overall finances.”

As part of its ongoing commitment to customer service, Countrywide will work to install the self-care component of CheckFree’s third-generation E-Bill product, announced at the recent Retail Delivery Systems trade show in Las Vegas.

According to Matt Lewis, senior vice president of Electronic Commerce Product Management and Marketing for CheckFree, “Bill presentment turns the traditional monthly bill into another powerful tool that can be used to communicate with customers.  Billers are able to brand their electronic bills according to their needs and use them to learn as much as they can about their customers via an interactive environment.”

With the signing of Countrywide, CheckFree now has contracts with more than 40 of the nation’s top 100 billers, including Ameren, American Electric Power, AT&T, BellSouth, Boston Edison, Chase Credit Card & Chase Mortgage, Columbia Gas of Ohio, Consumers’ Energy, CUNA Mutual Group, First USA, Florida Power & Light, GPU Energy, HomeSide Lending, International Billing Services, Northeast Utilities (Connecticut Light & Power and Western Massachusetts Electrical Company), Northern Illinois Gas (Nicor), Public Service Company of New Mexico, PGE, Small Business Administration, Southern California Edison, Southern Co., Total System Services Inc. (TSYS), and Washington Water Power.

In addition to billers, CheckFree works with financial service providers such as First Union and Intuit’s Quicken to offer integrated bill presentment and payment.  Future Web site launches for CheckFree E-Bill include Bank One, Chase Manhattan Bank and PNC Bank.

About Countrywide

Founded in 1969, Countrywide Credit Industries, Inc. originates, purchases, sells and services loans for single-family homes through its primary subsidiary, Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. The company is headquartered in Calabasas, Calif., and has nearly 11,000 employees with more than 500 offices across the nation.

About CheckFree

Founded in 1981, CheckFree (), the operating subsidiary of CheckFree Holdings Corp., is the leading provider of electronic commerce services, software and related products for more than 2.5 million consumers, 1,000 businesses and 850 financial institutions. CheckFree designs, develops and markets services that enable its customers to make electronic payments and collections, automate paper-based recurring financial transactions and conduct secure transactions on the Internet.

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