Valentine Gift Card

As gift cards continue to explode on the marketplace, Borders Books and Music announced Thursday they will introduce a Valentine’s Day electronic gift certificate card.The Borders ‘Valentine’s Day’ gift card, available in a $25 denomination, goes on sale Feb. 1 in all U.S. Borders stores and through It is the size of a credit card and features a colorful heart graphic. It is redeemable only at Borders Books and Music locations in the U.S.. The electronic gift certificate card automatically retains any unused balance and there is a toll-free phone line to check for updated balance information. Borders will include a free blank journal, valued at $4.95 with the gift card.


ChequeMARK E-Check System

LML Payment Systems Inc. announces that its subsidiary ChequeMARK Inc. is launching its Patented Point-Of-Sale Electronic Checking system for use on the Internet.  The ChequeMARK System, which enables retailers to convert a paper check transaction into a fully automated paperless electronic transaction, will likewise be designed for implementation by web merchants (“e-tailers”) as an alternative payment system to the current methods of Internet payment such as credit card, paper check drafts and virtual cash.

The ChequeMARK System will empower e-tailers to allow Internet consumers access to funds residing in their bank accounts in order to make purchases at e-tailers’ web sites.  While presently, the majority of Internet transactions are completed with credit cards, consumers’ overall preferred payment method is the personal check.  In 1997, personal check dollar volume was more than double the dollar volume for credit and debit cards combined.  During the same period, checks were also used 1 1/2 times more frequently than credit and debit cards combined.  The Company believes that its Patented Electronic Checking system will enable e-tailers to benefit from the same consumer payment preference.

Recently published reports indicate that Internet purchases will balloon from approximately $15 Billion in 1998 to over $3 Trillion by 2003.  The Company plans to make the ChequeMARK System available to Internet commerce service providers (“CSP’s”) and Internet payment processors who design and develop other payment methods on behalf of the rapidly expanding universe of e-tailers.  The Company believes that personal electronic checking will form an integral part of the Internet commerce industry and expects ChequeMARK’s entry to become one of the dominant methods of payment.

The Company owns U.S. Patent No. 5,484,988 with specific regard to a “checkwriting point-of-sale system” and operates the ChequeMARK System, a central database and authorization system administering various consumer payment services, collectively referred to as “Electronic Checking.”


Online Shopping – A Hit

December was predicted to be a breakthrough season for Internet shopping and indeed, the click of the mouse was heard across America more than ever before this holiday.  But more important than the number of shoppers who logged on is the astonishing 98 percent of online holiday shoppers that said they had a satisfactory or very satisfactory experience according to a Visa U.S.A. survey released today.

The future of online shopping continues to be bright — 90 percent of respondents who shopped online said they plan to continue and 88 percent would recommend shopping online to a friend.

“This past holiday season set the benchmark for online shopping not just for the holidays, but for the future of e-commerce,” said Joe Vause, vice president of electronic commerce for Visa U.S.A.  “Getting consumers to try shopping online isn’t nearly as tough as getting them to come back, which is why we are pleased to see a strong commitment by consumers to continue shopping online.”

In the 1,128 person survey commissioned by Visa U.S.A., 51 percent of the respondents purchased a portion of their holiday gifts online this past year — exceeding pre-holiday expectations by 5 percentage points.  And for 19 percent of these consumers, this marked their maiden online shopping voyage.

Online Shopping Experience

* 92 percent of respondents found most of their gifts ordered online arrived by the expected date, and 95 percent of those gifts arrived in good condition.  62 percent of online shoppers said they were very satisfied with the telephone customer service they received when they spoke to a representative.

* Of the online shoppers surveyed who paid for online holiday purchases with a credit card, 55 percent felt that the financial information they were providing was very secure.

Most Popular Purchases

* For this holiday, clothes and books were predicted to top the shopping list.  Of Visa’s survey respondents who did shop online this holiday, 43 percent bought books, 30 percent bought clothes, 27 percent bought CDs, and 18 percent bought toys.  15 percent of the online shoppers surveyed spent more than they planned on their gifts, with the largest portion (33 percent) spending between $100 and $249 on Internet purchases.  52 percent of those purchases were made using a Visa card.

* In the November 1998 online shopping survey by Visa, 29 percent of Internet shoppers said they were most likely to shop online for their children this holiday season and by far the hardest person to shop for would be a spouse or partner.  In this latest survey, children and spouses/partners received the most gifts and 92 percent of respondents found the Internet did make it easier to buy gifts for “hard to shop for” relatives.

Brand Awareness Online

* The November 1998 Visa survey found that 86 percent of online shoppers have a specific product in mind when they shop online.  That was true this holiday — 43 percent of online holiday shoppers went first to the web page of a company that makes the product they wanted.  64 percent of respondents also said they are aware of advertising promoting online shopping.

The Visa U.S.A. survey was conducted January 5 — January 12, by NFO Research Inc. of Greenwich, Conn., among 1,128 adults who have access to the Internet on a computer at home or in the office.  Of those polled, half were interviewed over the telephone and half completed the survey online.  This survey was conducted as a follow-up to a pre-holiday survey released in November 1998.

Visa, the leading card brand and the largest consumer payment system worldwide, is a payment solutions provider for consumers, merchants and government.  It plays a pivotal role in advancing new payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions, their cardholders, and the global economy.  Visa is the only consumer payment system to facilitate more than $1 trillion worth of purchases of goods and services in a fiscal year.  Visa’s nearly 600 million cards are accepted at more than 15 million worldwide locations, including more than 450,000 ATMs in the Visa/PLUS Global ATM Network.  Visa’s Internet address is [http//][1].



TU Becomes a CA

VeriSign, Inc., the world’s leading provider of Internet-based trust services, and Trans Union LLC, the nation’s leading consumer credit information company, Thursday announced that Trans Union has selected VeriSign’s Affiliate Services to establish itself as a Certificate Authority (CA) to enable secure Internet transactions between consumers and its Relying Partner Network.  Trans Union’s Relying Partner Network is a value-chain network that brings consumers and Web sites together in such applications as home banking, online auction houses, online brokerages, document delivery, online communities, Internet e-mail services, web retailers and lending services.  As a Certificate Authority, Trans Union will distribute digital certificates to consumers who are referred to the company from the Relying Partner Network, establishing a broad trusted infrastructure for secure e-commerce and communications.

Trans Union maintains one of the largest consumer-oriented databases in the world and is a primary source of credit information for companies that have risk management or portfolio evaluation needs.  The combination of Trans Union’s vast repository of consumer credit information and VeriSign’s expertise in online trust services delivers to the Relying Partner Network a trusted and authenticated population of users to whom they can confidently market their products and services.  With the Relying Partner Network, businesses will increase Web site security, establish broad digital certificate interoperability and reduce online fraud.

“We looked at all of the top providers to help us create a leading digital certificate solution for our partners and consumers and only VeriSign had the broad digital certificate expertise that we were looking for,” said James Randall, Director, Trans Union Internet Business Group.  “With VeriSign’s Affiliate Services, we’re able to offer Internet businesses the ability to verify consumers’ identities using our credit information and authentication infrastructure and enable secure and private Internet transactions.”

Trans Union is deploying its Relying Partner Program during the first quarter of 1999.  Through the use of digital certificates, Trans Union will enable consumers to manage online investments, conduct home banking and engage in secure communications with the confidence that their transactions are private and have not been tampered with in any way, a critical security component when using the Internet for the transfer of private information.

“Trans Union is the clear leader in offering superior, high-value credit information and its decision to secure its business with VeriSign’s Affiliate Services is a testament to the value it places on secure, private online transactions and communications,” said Richard Yanowitch, vice president of marketing at VeriSign.  “By leveraging the security of digital certificates, Trans Union is able to offer its Relying Partners and consumers the confidence that business and transactions conducted over the Internet will be private and secure.”

VeriSign Affiliate Services

VeriSign’s Affiliate Services have been designed to serve the needs of major service providers with extremely high volume digital certificate issuance requirements.  These include electronic commerce service providers who establish themselves as large-scale regional or multi-national Certificate Authorities (CAs); Internet Service Providers or Web hosting companies which deliver connectivity and other value added services to a range of business and consumer customers; and transaction processors, financial services companies, professional services firms, and other entities that operate Internet-based communities of interest (such as Web portals).  These Affiliates typically offer digital certificate services to their customers either under their own brand, the VeriSign brand, or within a co-branded certificate hierarchy.  In many cases, the certificate services are integrated with other value-added services offered by the provider.  Examples include an ISP which offers Web site digital certificates in conjunction with its Web site hosting services or a large e-commerce site which offers certificates to each member of its customer base to support secure user authentication and electronic messaging.

Trans Union LLC

Trans Union is the nation’s leading consumer credit information company, with owned and independent credit bureaus in all 50 states.  The company provides a broad range of industries with products and services that include credit reports, risk scoring models, target marketing systems, pre-employment evaluation reports, skip tracing and search tools, customized lists, transaction services; products that service both equity and first mortgage lenders; as well as other information-based products.  Trans Union also offers similar products through its international operations in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Italy, Mexico and South Africa.  Offices have also recently opened in Chile, Kenya and Peru.

VeriSign, Inc.

VeriSign, Inc. (Nasdaq VRSN) is the leading provider of Internet-based trust services and digital certificate solutions needed by Web sites, enterprises, electronic commerce service providers and individuals to conduct trusted and secure electronic commerce and communications over IP networks. VeriSign’s digital certificate services for Web sites and consumers are available through the company’s Web site at [http//][1].  The company’s digital certificate services for enterprises and electronic commerce service providers are available through regional account representatives, resellers, and global affiliates.

VeriSign is a registered trademark exclusively licensed to VeriSign, Inc. VeriSign Global Trust Network, VeriSign Trust Network, Global Trust Network, and OnSite are service marks of VeriSign, Inc.  All other trademarks are properties of their respective owners.



Speedpass Hits Two Million

Mobil Corp. reported Thursday that over two million Americans are now using its ‘Mobil Speedpass’ technology that allows customers to fill up without ever opening wallets or purses for credit cards or cash. Mobil said it recognized a Ft. Myers, FL resident as the two millionth ‘Speedpass’ enrollee, with a special ceremony at a local Mobil station, $1000 to be used for gasoline purchases, and other gifts of appreciation from the company. The Speedpass program has now expanded to over 3,500 stations in  the U.S..


3GI Hires NCR Exec

3-G International, Inc. announced Wednesday the appointment of Mr. Woodrow “Sonny” Angle to Vice President of Sales.

Mr. Angle joins 3GI from NEC corporation, where he was Vice President of U.S. Sales. The move reflects 3GI’s growing focus on the PC OEM and commercial markets for network and desktop security applications.

“It is a very exciting time to join 3GI, given the company’s recent introduction of its Passage smart card PC and network security products into the market,” commented Mr. Angle. “3GI has had tremendous financial growth in the past several years, and I look forward to helping to take the company to the next level.” 3GI recently introduced its Passage family of multiple application smart card products and solutions for PC, enterprise, and government environments.

Prior to joining 3GI, Angle represented NEC-brand microcomputer products to the commercial, federal government, state government, educational and OEM marketplaces. He was with NEC from 1986 to 1998 in a variety of sales management roles, most recently as Vice President of U.S. Sales from 1995 to 1998. Angle is a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a B.S. in Marketing and is based in 3GI’s Springfield, VA office.

“There is no question that smart card technology is moving into mainstream IT markets. I am pleased that Sonny will be taking the lead in growing our global sales organization to keep 3GI at the forefront of this explosive growth,” commented Thomas Gregg, 3GI President.

3-G International, Inc. is the leading North American smart card solutions company and has provided multiple application smart card management and terminal software, smart card applications, and card system integration services to industry and government since 1991. 3GI offers a wide range of smart card applications and solutions including financial, internet security, electronic payments, and card system management. 3GI is based in Springfield, Virginia and has branch offices in Williamsburg, Honolulu, San Francisco, Raleigh, Edinburgh, and Shenzhen, China. 3GI was recently recognized as one of the fastest growing privately-held U.S. companies in the Inc. 500 survey. 3GI can be found on the World Wide Web at [][1].



PULSE 30%+

The Pulse EFT Association reported yesterday it processed more than 341 million transactions in 1998, representing an increase of more than 30% over 1997 volume. POS transaction volume through ‘PULSE PAY’  increased more than 50% in 1998, posting in excess of 131 million transactions. More than 115,000 merchants currently participate in the ‘PULSE PAY’ program. Pulse now has more than 2,000 members representing approximately 20 million cardholders. The network includes more than 30,000 ATMs and 160,000 ‘PULSE PAY’ POS terminals across nine states.


Household Focus

Household said Wednesday it will continue to focus on fewer, stronger Mastercard/VISA to shore up profits. However the firm said it remains committed to two major credit card partnerships, the ‘GM Card’ and the ‘Union Privilege’ program with the AFL/CIO labor federation.  Household unloaded $500 million in card receivables during the third quarter and $1.4 billion during the fourth quarter. Household also indicated yesterday it will enter the sub-prime card market during 1999. To facilitate this effort, Household signed an agreement with Renaissance Holdings, a privately held issuer of secured and unsecured credit cards to non-prime consumers. During the fourth quarter Household sold $1.2 billion of card loans to Fleet Financial and $200 million to others from former telephone co-branded card programs. The 4Q/98 sales yielded a premium of approximately $144 million. For the full 4Q/98 earnings report for Household visit CardData ([][1]).



SmarTalk Sold

SmarTalk TeleServices confirmed Wednesday it has signed a definitive agreement to sell substantially all of its assets to AT&T for up to $192.5 million in cash. The company also confirmed it has commenced a Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. At this week’s signing,  AT&T made debtor-in-possession financing immediately available to SmarTalk. The companies expect the transaction to close during the first quarter, prior to the conclusion of the bankruptcy proceedings. SmarTalk is a provider of prepaid calling cards and prepaid wireless services.  Based in Dublin, OH, SmarTalk maintains distribution agreements with the U.S. Postal Service and other mass merchandisers, consumer electronics retailers, supermarkets, hotels, home office superstores and convenience stores throughout North America and the U.K. AT&T said SmarTalk’s assets will enable it to expand its prepaid card retail distribution capability.


Metris 50%+ Year

Metris Companies said net income for the fourth quarter soared 66% compared to 4Q/97. According to CardData ([][1]), managed card loans grew from $3,546,936,000 to $5,315,042,000, or 51%, during 1998. Credit card charge volume increased 10% to approximately $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 1998, compared to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 1997. For the full year 1998, credit card charge volume was approximately $3.9 billion, a 41% increase over 1997. Managed net charge-offs continued to escalate to 10.4% for 4Q/98, compared to 10.5% for the prior quarter and 7.6% for the fourth quarter of 1997. The managed delinquency rate (30+ days) was 6.8% at Dec. 31, compared to 7.8% at Sept. 30, and 6.6% at Dec. 31, 1997. The charge-off  and delinquency rates were somewhat skewed by Metris acquisitions during 1998. Metris also reported Wednesday that managed credit card fees, interchange and other credit card income increased 52% to $71.0 million for the fourth quarter, from $46.7 million in the fourth quarter of 1997. For 1998, managed credit card fees, interchange and other credit card income was $251.2 million compared to $153.6 million for 1997. The company said these increases were primarily due to the growth in the managed credit card portfolio, as well as the continued impact of the re-evaluation and policy changes in the billing of fees. For the full 4Q/98 earnings report for Metris visit CardData ([][2]).



Net.B@nk Goes QIF

Net.B@nk ([][1]), the largest FDIC-insured bank operating solely on the Internet, announced today that it has upgraded its banking technology platform to better accommodate future growth and offer customers a wider range of new and improved services.

“As Net.B@nk continues to grow, we continue to improve and upgrade the bank’s service and delivery systems to better serve our existing customers and accommodate new ones,” said D.R. Grimes, CEO of Net.B@nk.  “We believe it is imperative to provide the best systems architecture possible to maintain our status as a leading provider of consumer banking services on the Internet. Our technology partnerships with industry leaders like NCR, Edify and BISYS play a key role in helping us achieve this goal.”

In addition to providing an updated look for the bank, the new platform is easier to navigate and enables customers to request information and materials on-line.  Account information provided to customers through Net.B@nk’s new platform is provided real-time, a feature not often found in Internet banking today.  Other new features include formatted order screens that enable customers to order checks, deposit slips, envelopes and copies of cancelled checks.  Online bill payment features have also been updated to display payment history and provide customers better status information on payments.

For customers looking to consolidate their personal finance statements, Net.B@nk’s new platform includes a Quicken(TM) Import Format (QIF), which allows customers to download their banking records into files for use with Quicken(TM) and Microsoft Money(TM).  The new platform also offers customers hyperlinks to their accounts using a more traditional Windows(TM) web interface.  For customers with multiple accounts, they can now assign nicknames to the accounts, making it easier to distinguish among accounts than with account numbers.

Net.B@nk’s new platform is based on Edify’s Electronic Banking System (EBS) application.  NCR Corporation will be the host of the new banking platform and BISYS Group, Inc., will remain the bank’s core processing center.

NCR Corporation is a recognized world leader in scaleable data warehousing, self-service and store automation solutions for the retail, financial and communications industries and other select markets.  NCR’s solutions are built on the foundation of the company’s long-established industry knowledge and consulting expertise, value-adding software, world-leading hardware technology, global customer support services and a complete line of consumable and media products.  More information on NCR and its products can be found on the World Wide Web at [][2].

Edify’s Electronic Banking System (EBS) is a comprehensive direct banking solution providing financial institutions the means to deploy personalized, content-rich electronic banking services via multiple access channels including the Internet, telephones and personal financial management software. Further information on Edify is available from [][3] or by calling 408-982-2000.

BISYS Group, Inc., supports more than 9,000 financial institutions and corporate clients through its integrated business units.  BISYS provides technology outsourcing and check imaging applications and brokerage services to more than 1,000 financial institutions nationwide; distributes and administers over 60 families of mutual funds consisting of more than 900 portfolios; provides retirement plan services to over 7,000 companies in partnership with 30 of the nation’s leading bank investment management companies; and provides insurance distribution solutions, Internet/telephone marketing, enterprise-wide networking services, and loan/deposit product pricing research.  More information is available at [][4].

Net.B@nk, Inc., Member FDIC, has quickly become a leading Internet bank, offering checking, money market accounts and certificates of deposits with attractive interest rates.  Net.B@nk has over 15,000 accounts and customers in all 50 United States and 20 foreign countries.  The bank also offers Visa(R) and MasterCard(R) credit cards, online brokerage services, mortgage lending and business equipment leasing services.  For more information on Net.B@nk, its products and services, visit the web site at [][5], or call 888-256-6932.



MedCard Marketer

SIMS Communications Inc. announced Wednesday that it has signed Innovatix as a Marketing Agent for its MedCard System.

“We are very impressed with the MedCard System’s capabilities and with its elegant system design,” stated John P. Sganga, president of Innovatix. “Since 1993, Innovatix’ strategy has been to offer our alternate care provider customers products and services that reduce their expenses. We see the MedCard System as a perfect complement to our product line.”

Four years in development, and using state-of-the-art computer and communications technologies, the MedCard System is an easy-to-use, cost-effective solution for electronically processing medical transactions. Verification of a patient’s medical benefits is obtained in real-time and most insurance payors can receive claims electronically. Its benefits include more rapid claims processing, fewer errors, faster payments and reduced expenses both for the healthcare provider and the insurance company.

“We are delighted that Innovatix has agreed to market the SIMS MedCard System,” stated Mark E. Bennett, SIMS president and CEO. Innovatix’ industry reputation, extraordinary growth, existing customer base and national sales focus makes them an ideal marketing partner.”

Innovatix, a privately held corporation, is one of the fastest growing alternate care group purchasing organizations in the U.S. Headquartered in Manhattan, with 11 sales offices located throughout the country, Innovatix services 1,500 alternate care providers in 50 States and Puerto Rico. These providers include independent oncology practices, physician groups, home I.V. infusion providers, long-term care providers, diagnostic centers and HMOs.

SIMS Communications provides low cost, turnkey, transaction processing solutions to service providers and retailers. These solutions use its patented, intelligent, DebitLink POS terminal, custom software and a comprehensive network of financial transaction processors encompassing most credit card and ATM networks. Its services include medical insurance eligibility and authorization, medical billing, prepaid phone card activations, customer affinity programs and customized vertical market applications.