Royal Bank WWF VISA

Canada’s Royal Bank and the World Wildlife Fund launched a new affinity card this weekend, which allow cardholders to contribute to the World Wildlife Fund with every purchase. The card was unmasked at the opening reception of WWF’s Panda Masquerade in Toronto, Saturday afternoon. The new card enables cardholders to collect points and rewards while supporting the cause.The new ‘Royal Bank World Wildlife Fund VISA’ cards will feature a panda or polar bear.

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Shopping But Not Buying

While over 15 million internet connected adults in the U.S. claim that they have researched mortgage and equity loan rates on-line, only about one-third then applied for a loan from a lender that they found on the internet. Further, only about one in five of these shoppers actually obtained a mortgage or equity loan as a result of an on-line search. These findings are included in a just released consumer-based study by Atlanta-based Brittain Associates of 1200 adults in the U.S. who regularly use the Internet. Brittain says a similar trend was seen among the 7.2 million consumers who searched the internet for rates on certificates of deposit or U.S. treasury bills. Only about one-third of this group bought a CD or T-bill from an institution that uses the internet as a marketing channel. However, by contrast, of the nearly 15 million consumers who shopped the internet for a new credit card, nearly three quarters actually applied for one or more cards that they found on-line.

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CheckFree Check Point Award

CheckFree  was named among the recipients of the first-ever Check Point Excellence Award, presented by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. , a worldwide leader in policy-based management for IP networks.  The Check Point Excellence Award recognizes companies that have demonstrated the most innovative and successful implementations of Check Point Software solutions, with winners spanning the consumer products, banking, government, advertising and publishing markets. The winning CheckFree implementation was the result of CheckFree and security solutions provider SecureIT teaming up to design a network security solution equivalent to that of a “steel vault.”

Using the market-leading Check Point FireWall-1 and Check Point Real Secure, CheckFree and SecureIT developed a robust security solution with high availability and reliability capable of supporting online services for some of the nation’s largest banks.  Check Point Real Secure is the leading intrusion detection product from Check Point’s OPSEC (Open Platform for Secure Enterprise Connectivity) partner Internet Security Systems (ISS).

“CheckFree’s deployment of Check Point Software products is a great model of how organizations are using technology to design real business solutions,” said Deborah Triant Rieman, president and chief executive officer of Check Point Software Technologies, Inc.  “The Check Point Excellence Award gives us an opportunity to publicly recognize CheckFree for its outstanding innovation.”

“CheckFree is very pleased to be among the first companies to receive this prestigious award,” said Jeff Reich, vice president and chief security officer for CheckFree.  “We always strive to be on the cutting-edge of solutions that will help our clients maintain the most secure environment for handling their customers’ confidential account information.”

The criteria for receiving a Check Point Excellence Award included: innovation of implementation using Check Point Software solutions; quantitative demonstration of how the deployments provided a return on investment to the business; enterprise-wide implementation focus; and use of multiple Check Point Software and third-party OPSEC products.

Other Check Point Excellence Award winners were The Boston Globe, The Clorox Company, The Forum Corporation and UUNET Technologies, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and FishNet Consulting Inc., and MacManus Group and Dataway Inc.

About Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. is a leading provider of policy- based management solutions for IP networks.  The company is dedicated to enabling secure, reliable, and manageable business communications through its products, which include the world’s leading enterprise security suite, FireWall-1(R); the industry’s leading VPN family of solutions, VPN-1; the industry’s premier bandwidth management solution, FloodGate-1; and Meta IP, the leading network and IP address management software.  The company has U.S. headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., and international headquarters in Ramat-Gan, Israel. For product information, please call (800) 429-4391 or (650) 628-2000, or visit their Web site at .

About CheckFree

Founded in 1981, CheckFree (), the operating subsidiary of CheckFree Holdings Corporation, is the leading provider of financial electronic commerce services, softwared 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 financial transactions on the Internet.

Check Point, the Check Point logo, FireWall-1, FireWall-1 SecuRemote, FireWall-First!, OPSEC, INSPECT, VPN-1, UAP, FloodGate-1 and IQ Engine are trademarks or registered trademarks of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. Meta IP and Meta DNS are trademarks of MetaInfo Inc.

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VISA Magic

VISA introduced ‘VISA Magic Moments’ this morning, a multi-million dollar fourth-quarter promotion. Through ‘VISA Magic Moments’, each day through Dec. 31, VISA will randomly select a one-second magic moment when VISA card purchases are free, regardless of the amount. The promotion will be supported by an extensive advertising campaign including a national television “ad roadblock” appearing on 5 networks at 9:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to alert consumers of additional “magic moments” over the biggest shopping weekend of the year.  An outdoor teaser campaign broke in the top-10 U.S. markets on October 15.  Additional advertising will appear nationally on radio, the Internet and in malls across the country. Throughout the promotion, local newspaper advertisements will feature winners.

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ClickMiles

San Francisco-based ClickRewards announced this morning the ‘Buy & Fly Holiday Bonus’ online shopping promotion. ClickRewards will offer Internet shoppers 65 million bonus ‘ClickMiles’, the equivalent of 1,000 times around the world.  The ‘Buy & Fly Holiday Bonus’ ends December 30. To qualify, online shoppers simply buy gifts at their favorite online retailers such as barnesandnoble.com, MSN Shopping Channel, Music Boulevard, OfficeMax.com, Preview Travel, and SkyMall.  Shoppers can earn up to 10,000 bonus ‘ClickMiles’ and shoppers who use mileage credit cards can “triple dip”, or earn miles from the merchant, bonus miles from ‘ClickRewards’ and miles on their credit card.

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Natl Online Week

Online retailers announced a joint effort Friday to raise consumer awareness about safe Internet transactions by declaring November 27 to December 4 ‘National Online Shopping Week’. Among the organizations spearheading the campaign geared toward boosting confidence and interest in online shopping, are MasterCard International, EZSpree, shop.org, the association of leading online retailers and The Association for Interactive Media. During the campaign, consumers can visit [http://www.OnlineShoppingWeek.com][1] for payment security information, advice about shopping online, links to participating merchants and the opportunity to participate in an online shopping survey. Merchants participating in ‘National Online Shopping Week’ are required to adhere to the latest in secure transaction protocols and are asked to offer consumer incentives ranging from free shipping on items purchased during ‘National Online Shopping Week’ to 10% discounts, free wrapping paper, special gifts and donations to national charities.  Participating merchant sites will display a ‘National Online Shopping Week’ logo and/or run ‘National Online Shopping Week’ advertising banners on their sites as well as contribute useful information to http://www.OnlineShoppingWeek.com.

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

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Sub-Prime Mess

Los Angeles-based, sub-prime specialist Bank Plus Corp. and its subsidiary, Fidelity Federal Bank, said this morning that they have terminated agreements with one of their affinity credit card marketers, MMG Direct, Inc. The company also announced that American Direct Credit LLC, another affinity credit card marketer for Bank Plus/FFB, has agreed to wind down originations under its affinity credit card program. As of Sept. 30 the Bank Plus portfolio had about 344,000 total credit card accounts with outstanding balances of approximately $315 million, of which MMG and ADC together accounted for approximately 93% of such balances. The decision to terminate the programs follows the fact that total delinquencies for the credit card portfolio at the end of Sept. were 16.9%, compared to 11.9% at June 30. Delinquencies at the end of Sept. for the MMG and ADC programs were 19.5% and 15.7%, respectively, compared to 8.6% and 14.6%, respectively, as of June 30.

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First X Prize Winner

A special-education teacher from Davison, Mich., will soon travel to Moscow and up to 85,000 feet at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound aboard a Russian MiG-25 as the first winner in the ‘YOUR TICKET TO SPACE’ sweepstakes.  The first-of-its-kind quarterly sweepstakes is sponsored by the X PRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to promote space-tourism. Contestants are entered in the sweepstakes by using the ‘X PRIZE Platinum VISA’ from First USA.  Each use of the card entitled cardholders to an automatic sweepstakes entry.The MiG-25 flight is the first of many space-related prizes leading up to the grand prize, a sub-orbital trip into space, which will be awarded upon the development of a commercial vehicle capable of sub-orbital flight. The next quarterly drawing, in December, will award a first-prize zero- gravity flight aboard a wide-body jet.

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MDC Acquisition Update

MDC Communications Corporation of Toronto announced this week that it has completed the acquisition of all the assets of Canadian cheque producer Custom Cheques of Canada, Canadian card producer BA Custom Cards, and U.S. direct-to-consumer cheque producer Custom Direct Inc.

MDC paid $55 million in cash and issued 1,250,000 MDC Class A Subordinate Voting Shares as consideration for the acquisitions.

As reported previously, all regulatory preconditions for closing the transaction have been fulfilled, including notification from the Canadian Competition Bureau of the conclusion of their review of the transaction.

“We are thrilled to have completed this strategically important transaction,” said Miles S. Nadal, President & Chief Executive Officer of MDC. “These operations further enhance our presence in the Canadian market for personalized transaction products including personal and business checks, as well as credit, debit and smart cards. In addition, we have enhanced our growing presence in the U.S. direct to consumer check market by gaining an additional brand to further enhance our market positioning”.

MDC is a leading provider of secure transaction products and services as well as communications and marketing services to customers in over 65 countries around the world from its operating units in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. MDC has a strong record of growth, generated both internally and from strategic corporate acquisitions.

MDC offers secure transaction products and services through four primary areas: personalized transaction products such as personal and business cheques & credit, debit, and smart cards; secure ticketing products such as airline, transit, and event tickets; stamps, both postal and excise; and business and technology services such as customer communication design, database management, information presentation, statement outsourcing and business process services.

MDC shares are traded on Nasdaq under the symbol MDCAF and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol MDZ.A.

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VISA Infinite

As announced in yesterday’s CardFlash VISA International is launching a new global premium card called: ‘VISA Infinite’. The decision to launch the new upscale product was made this week at VISA International’s Board of Directors meeting in Buenos Aires. One of the new major features of the new card is a Web service that is exclusive to ‘VISA Infinite’ cardholders, offering them 24-hour access to personalized travel information, special cardholder retail and travel offers, and an online concierge service. The Web site feature can also be customized for the cardholder. The new card will feature a $20,000 minimum credit limit or a no pre-set spending credit limit. The card will carry most of  enhancements found on the ‘VISA Signature’ card. VISA says the card is targeted technologically savvy affluent international travelers. Among Infinite merchant partners: Ritz-Carlton and Avis.

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