Better News

Bank credit card delinquency is coming down dramatically and posted another decline for the seventh consecutive month according to figures released yesterday by CardData ([][1]):

  DELINQUENCY  (% of receivables past due)
Month +30dy +60dy +90dy  +120dy Total
Oct 98: 2.18% 1.21% 0.77% 0.93%  5.09%
Sep 98: 2.20% 1.22% 0.77% 0.93%  5.12%
Aug 98: 2.22%  1.24%   0.78% 0.93%  5.17%
Jul 98: 2.23%  1.25%  0.78% 0.93%   5.19%
Jun 98: 2.22%   1.24%  0.77% 0.93%   5.16%
May 98: 2.24%   1.26%  0.78% 0.94%   5.22%
Apr 98: 2.33%   1.31%  0.82% 0.95%   5.41%
Source: CardData (  717-338-1885



Citigroup 3Q

Citigroup reported Wednesday that card accounts worldwide totaled 50 million as of Sept. 30, up from 36 million a year ago, principally reflecting the acquisition of Universal Card Services. The number of cards in force worldwide, including those issued by affiliates, at quarter-end was 92 million, up from 64 million a year ago. Chargeoffs in U.S. bankcards were $795 million or 5.23% of average managed loans for the quarter, compared to $842 million or 5.73% in the 1998 second quarter, and $639 million or 5.58% a year ago. Excluding UCS, the 12-month-lagged loss ratio was 5.49% in the quarter, compared with 5.98% in the 1998 second quarter and 5.93% a year ago. U.S. bankcards managed loans delinquent 90 days or more were $924 million or 1.51% at quarter-end, compared with $942 million or 1.58% for the prior quarter and $806 million or 1.76% a year-ago. For comprehensive third quarter 1998 financials for Citigroup visit CardData ([][1]).



Grafit Payphones

Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals announced yesterday that Hongkong Telecom is installing its ‘Grafit’ payphones at Hong Kong’s new Chek Lap Kok Airport. ‘Grafit’ payphones feature smart card and magnetic stripe card readers. Targeting the needs of business and international travelers, the phones are equipped with a PC port which allows travellers to quickly and easily connect their notebook computers to access and send email and faxes. The payphones have been configured for payment flexibility and accept Hongkong Telecom smartcards, ‘Hello’ phonecards, or credit cards.  Grafit also incorporates two slots for security access modules, providing an upgrade path to support new e-purse cards.


Military Smart Cards

3-G International said it has implemented U.S. military smart card systems in Thailand and Bosnia. To date the firm has developed five smart card applications, and supported the issuance of multiple application cards in over 10 locations including Japan, Korea, Guam, Hungary, Germany, Thailand, Hawaii, and six bases in the continental U.S..The multiple application cards were issued to support the ‘Cobra Gold `98’ joint military exercise in Thailand, and for the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Over 7,000 multiple application smart cards were issued to US and Thai forces participating in the ‘Cobra Gold’ exercise in Thailand. In Bosnia, 3GI helped issue over 2,500 multiple application smart cards to the 2nd Armed Cavalry Regiment. 3GI provided five applications for use with the military multi-application smart card to support these implementations.



Gemplus announced yesterday that IBM has selected GemSAFEª, its smart card-based software solution for securing network services, as part of the IBM Smart Card Security Kit, an integrated hardware and software offering that provides advanced access protection for notebook PCs.

GemSAFE is a computer security product based on a smart card that is designed for companies seeking to secure Internet-based services or corporate intranets and extranets, and for individuals who want to protect the digital exchange of information.  GemSAFE makes it possible for businesses to offer customers security-sensitive services such as online stock trading, home banking and retail purchasing that include stronger online transaction security than traditional password-based solutions.

“Notebook PC users, like most computer users, have too many passwords to remember for accessing corporate intranets and the Internet.  This poses a security risk,” said John Landwehr, director of product marketing for Gemplus’ Internet and Information Technology Group. “GemSAFE acts as a secured universal password for securing Web, email and other network transactions.”

About the IBM Smart Card Security Kit

IBM’s  Smart Card Security Kit includes a personalized smart card and smart card reader/writer incorporating Gemplus GemSAFE technology, security software application based on world class RSA cryptographic technology, support for Security Dynamics’s SoftID, digital signature capability, a security luggage tag, and Norton’s anti-virus protection program.  It is among the first smart card solutions to offer transparent encryption and decryption software capabilities done automatically without requiring any action by the end user. This is done using an encryption key that is stored on the smart card.  It also allows users to send a secure file to a non-secure system with the use of a passphrase.

Offered as part of the IBM SecureWay portfolio of products and services, the IBM Smart Card Security Kit provides a complete security solution for mobile PC users, including secure system access, hard disk encryption,  secure screen saver, and encrypted data exchange.  Advanced functions also include digital signatures to access secure Web sites and e-mail activities, and Security Dynamics’ SoftID support to identify network and system users.

IBM’s Smart Card Security Kit works with IBM ThinkPad models and most IBM-compatible notebook computers.  It is fully compatible with Windows 95 and 98, and requires a Type II PCMCIA slot with version 2.1 PCMCIA software.  No operating system or BIOS changes are required.

In order to access their systems, users place the smart card reader into the notebook’s PCMCIA slot, insert their personal smart card and enter a private PIN code.  The combination of a smart card and PIN code prevents an unauthorized user from accessing the system and the computer’s files. The Smart Card Security Kit also includes advanced functions for additional level of security, should users require it.

More About GemSAFE

GemSAFE offers the highest level of transaction security by storing a user’s digital identity on a smart card.  It is the first and only smart card solution available internationally that is compatible with both Microsoft and Netscape Internet suites, as well as Windows NT 5.0 logon.

It is also compatible with Microsoft Outlook Express, Outlook ’98, and Netscape Messenger email products.  GemSAFE augments the software capabilities of these popular Web and email products by securely storing private encryption keys with industry-standard digital certificates. This means users receive stronger user authentication and secure email capabilities than typically provided with passwords or software tokens.

The private keys stored on the GemSAFE smart card never leave it due to sophisticated cryptography routines that execute on the card in cooperation with software applications on the PC.  Should the card be lost or stolen, it is also protected by a PIN code, much like a bank card.  After three invalid PIN entry attempts in succession, the card is disabled and is no longer usable.

Standards-Based Security

GemSAFE supports many industry standards. The user’s identity is contained in an industry-standard X.509 certificate stored on the smart card.  For security, the user’s private keys never leave the card.   GemSAFE cards can be used in any industry-standard PC/SC-compliant smart card reader. Using Microsoft Crypto-Service Provider (CSP) and PKCS No.11 libraries, both Microsoft and Netscape browsers are capable of providing SSL version 3 client authentication to requesting Web servers via the certificate stored on the card.  In addition, that certificate can be used in Microsoft and Netscape email programs to securely exchange electronic mail via S/MIME.

About Gemplus

Gemplus ([][1]) is the world’s leading provider of plastic and smart card-based solutions. Gemplus sells magnetic stripe cards, memory and microprocessor-based smart cards, smart contactless cards, electronic tags and smart objects. The company designs and markets software, development tools and readers. Gemplus also provides consulting, training and personalization services to deliver the industry’s most comprehensive and flexible card-based solutions to its developers, distributors, partners, and customers.

With sales of over US$590 million in 1997, Gemplus employs more than 4,100 people in 10 manufacturing facilities, five R&D centers and 41 sales and marketing offices located in 27 countries around the world. Founded in 1988, Gemplus has successfully implemented portable and secure smart card-based solutions to simplify applications such as public and wireless communications, financial transactions, loyalty, transportation, education, healthcare, identity, physical access control, pay TV, electronic commerce, Internet security, logical access control and information technology.



Discover Signs TNS

Transaction Network Services, Inc. announced Wednesday that it signed an agreement with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., to provide transaction transport services to Discover Financial Services for Discover Card and other bankcard credit authorizations.

Discover Financial Services, a business unit of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., operates the Discover Card and Novus Card brands, as well as the Novus Network. The cards are accepted on the Novus Network, the third largest credit card network in the United States, which consists of more than 3 million merchant and cash access locations.

“This new relationship enables us to deliver credit card authorization traffic directly to Discover Financial Services and to support their terminals,” commented Brian Bates, senior vice president and general manager of TNS’ Point-of-Services (POS) division. “We look forward to supporting NOVUS and to building a strong and prosperous alliance.”

Transaction Network Services, Inc. (TNS), headquartered in Reston, Virginia, provides data communications services for transaction-oriented applications. The company is listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market under the symbol TNSI. Additional company information is available on the TNS website at .



Singapore’s NETS or Network for Electronic Transfers, which operates the ‘NETS’ cash card widely used in Singapore, said it will adopt the Common Electronic Purse Specification (CEPS) being jointly developed by VISA, Zentraller Kredit Ausschuss of Germany, VISA Espana and Europay International. VISA said more than 90%  of electronic purse smart cards are expected to conform to ‘CEPS’ standards, which has the support of leading smart card issuers and technology service providers. Since their launch in 1996, there are now 1.2 million ‘NETS’ cash cards in circulation in Singapore.


Good News

Bank credit card chargeoffs took a turn south last month according to CardData’s ([][1]) October statistics:

CHARGEOFFS (% of receivables)
Month       CO        Month     CO
Oct 98:    5.55%   Apr 98:  5.51%
Sep 98:    5.61%   Mar 98:  5.54%
Aug 98:    5.56%   Feb 98:  5.61%
Jul 98:    5.58%   Jan 98:   5.66%
Jun 98:    5.61%   Dec 97:  5.63%
May 98:    5.63%   Nov 97:  5.51%
Source: CardData ( 717-338-1885



Sold Out

Another indicator of the Web’s success in credit card marketing: CardWeb’s consumer channel advertising slots are sold out. Launched three years ago by RAM Research Group, CardWeb’s Internet traffic recently surpassed the one million page-views-per-week benchmark. CardWeb’s free online consumer services include CardTrak (daily news, monthly commentary and surveys); CardSearch; CardLearn; CardLocator; and CardGame. Banner advertising on CardWeb’s consumer channels continues to be limited to twelve slots with a minimum one-year term. CardWeb advertiser response rates or click-through-rates average between 9.6% and 15.9%, among the highest of all consumer Web sites. CardWeb advertisers include: First USA, Chase Manhattan, NationsBank, Capital One, NextCard, Wachovia, AFBA, Commerce Bank, Beneficial and People’s Bank. Capital One recently purchased three slots. First USA, Wachovia, Commerce and People’s are entering their third year as CardWeb advertisers. Robert McKinley, president of CardWeb, Inc., announced yesterday from Denver that CardWeb ([][1]) has now opened its monthly CardTrak ([][2]) surveys to enable other issuers to procure hot-links to their respective Web sites. For more info call 717-338-1885.



Portable Smart Card Reader

Gemplus announced from Paris, Tuesday, a new portable smart card reader specially designed for applications requiring mobility, user authentication, and data transfer, such as healthcare and social programs, loyalty, and electronic purse. The ‘GCR800-MS’ has a twin smart card interface that can handle the reading and writing of two cards at the same time, an important feature for authentication or digital signature. A docking station for the card reader has an integrated modem that allows connection if required to a central server for data transfer or the updating of an application program. The portable ‘GCR800-MS’ electronic architecture also accepts any type of memory or microprocessor card. The MS in the product name stands for ‘Multi-SAMs’ and it can be specified with 0-, 2- or 4 Security Access Modules. It can handle up to four different applications individually protected and secured.  The ‘GCR800-MS’ is available now from 1,500 French francs for the basic version.


NetB@ank Expansion

Atlanta-based Net.B@nk announced Tuesday it will expand its product line and offer VISA and MasterCard credit cards to its online banking customers. The Internet bank recently added online brokerage accounts and mortgage lending services. Net.B@nk, Inc., achieved profitability for the bank’s second quarter 1998, making it the first profitable Internet bank in the country. Net.B@nk also claims to be the world’s largest Internet bank with 15,000 accounts, offering checking, money market accounts and certificates of deposits.


Faster Returns

TeleCheck Recovery Services recently added capabilities to electronically re-present returned checks via the ACH. TeleCheck’s ‘Electronic Check Collection’ provides benefits over traditional paper re-deposits, including faster re-deposit time and greater precision in determining potential fund availability.  Electronic re-deposit resolution takes only four days, compared to ten to eleven days for paper checks. Banks process electronic transactions before processing paper re-deposits, increasing the probability of reaching the account while funds are available.  In addition, TeleCheck’s predictive systems increase accuracy in timing re-deposits for collection to maximize the probability of successful collection.