USPS Purchasing Card

U.S. Bancorp announced yesterday that its I.M.P.A.C. Government Services unit has been awarded a five-year, $320 million per year contract, with five one-year renewal options to provide the ‘Purchasing Card Program’ for the U.S. Postal Service. This is the longest purchasing card contract awarded to date. The USPS award comes just three weeks after U.S. Bank won the competition for the world’s largest purchasing card contract, a $9 billion dollar, three-year agreement with the Department of Defense (DoD).

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Kiosks for Calgary Stampede

Home Ticket HTN announced that is has successfully installed and placed into service three new Multi-media touch-screen Ticket Kiosks at this year’s Calgary Stampede, which underway now . The HTN kiosks offer the first ever computerized gate admission ticketing at the Stampede, and speeds customers through a complete debit or credit card transaction in under 25 seconds. Use of the kiosk is free to the ticket buyer. HTN earns a transaction fee on each ticket sold. The Calgary Stampede attracts over one million visitors in a ten day period. HTN’s kiosks will not only improve customer service at the gate, but they will also make it possible to dramatically simplify daily reconciliation of ticket sales, reduce cash handling, and generate detailed profiles of attendance for management.

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Crestar Update

Following its announcement Thursday that it will sell $600 million in card receivables to Fleet, Crestar said Friday it will not layoff the 75 employees affected by the sale. Crestar said all employees involved will be offered opportunities to fill existing and upcoming vacancies within Crestar. Crestar also reported Friday that its total net charge-offs, as well as net charge-offs in the bank card portfolio, declined during the second quarter. Net charge-offs in the second quarter were $21.8 million or .54% of average loans compared to $25.7 million or .73% of average loans in the second quarter of 1997 and down from $25.1 million or .64% of average loans in the first quarter of this year.

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DataCard Loyalty

DataCard Corporation announced Friday an alliance with Vancouver-based Credit Systems International to enable DataCard to offer retailers, restaurateurs and other merchants CSI’s ‘Ernex’ card-based loyalty program in the U.S.. The CSI solution consists of an electronic database and tracking system that operates through the DataCard ‘Jigsaw’ modular POS solution. ‘Ernex’ allows merchants to offer loyalty card programs, and authorize customer credit and debit card transactions, from a single transaction terminal at the point of sale. Merchants can use ‘Ernex’ to offer points programs, instant-win programs and electronic gift certificates.

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InterCept Signs ACCESS LINK

GA-based The InterCept Group has been selected as the new processor for the ACCESS LINK ATM network. The network was previously managed by First Commercial Bank of AR which recently announced that it would be merging with AL-based Regions Financial. ACCESS LINK is a regional ATM network located in Arkansas with 26 financial institution members and 70 ATM locations. In addition to providing the banks with ATM network processing services, InterCept will also provide EFT processing services for the network’s members.

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Cards Fight Hooliganism

Bull signed contracts Friday to deliver more than 200,000 smart cards to the Belgian football league to tackle football hooliganism, with the blessing of the Belgian government. To improve safety inside stadiums, all fans will have their own smart card and PIN. The card will also have to be shown when fans buy tickets for certain games.  The Belgian government last year banned ticket sales on match days for high-risk games to avoid dense crowds at turnstiles. Initially the smart card with a chip and 1KB memory will only be used as a means of authenticating fans when they buy tickets, however, the program may be expanded to offer other payment and loyalty functions. Sponsors for the program include Canal+, the pay TV company, FINA, the petroleum company and Jupiler, the brewers.

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Oligopolistic ATM Net Market

California Independent Bankers cautioned the Fed that the pending merger of NationsBank and BankAmerica will pave the way for an oligopolistic ATM network market owned by a handful of the nation’s largest banks. The CIB said Friday these mega banks will control the pricing, policies and functionality of the nation’s ATM networks.  Given this control, large banks could limit access for community banks and their customers by imposing anti-competitive and discriminatory pricing, membership requirements, operating rules or technological barriers. The CIB, which represents 200 independent California financial institutions, also expressed concern about the creation of an oligopoly of credit card issuers led by Citicorp, Banc One and NationsBank. The bankers group pointed to CardWeb data showing the top ten credit card issuers controlling 72% of the credit card market when the current, pending, mega-mergers are finalized.

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TSYS Update

Total System Services reported Friday that net income for the first six months of 1998 increased 18.6% to $21.9 million while revenues for the same period were $187.8 million, an increase of 8.6%, compared with revenues of $172.9 million reported for the first six months of 1997. The nation’s second largest processor said Friday it will now be focusing on the conversion of 78 million new accounts, which includes Canadian Tire, Royal Bank of Canada and Sears, representing an 80% growth in accounts on file by year-end 1999.

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Advance Sale

SunTrust Bank named KARS Unlimited Friday as the official distributor of SunTrust ‘VISA Cash’ cards to collectors. Last September SunTrust and VISA announced an agreement to produce stored-value cards for the town of Celebration, Florida. The ‘SunTrust VISA Cash’ cards feature both disposable and reloadable options. The disposable cards come in $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations. The cards’ graphics display scenes of downtown Celebration including homes, downtown, the SunTrust branch, and kid-friendly photos for a child’s reloadable card. KARS Unlimited will offer ‘SunTrust VISA Cash’ cards to all KARS Unlimited Stored Value Card Club Members. These members will be able to purchase the cards at a special price, below general retail. The cards will then be offered to the KARS customer base of approximately 1,500 customers, and then to the general public.

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Kranzley Returns

Card industry veteran Art Kranzley has returned to MasterCard  to serve as SVP for electronic commerce. Kranzley, with 23 years of experience in the payments industry, left MasterCard more than two years ago to join Advanta where he was responsible for strategic business and corporate development. At MasterCard he was deeply involved in expanding the MasterCard/Cirrus ATM network and in establishing Maestro and MasterCard ‘MasterMoney’. In his new MasterCard role, Kranzley will have responsibility for expanding MasterCard’s leadership in electronic commerce, including identifying new opportunities and maximizing the usage of MasterCard’s many resources to move electronic commerce from the development stage into mass commercialization. Alan Glass, who has managed electronic commerce on an interim basis for the past several months, will return to his role as senior vice president, special projects.

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Fleet Acquisition

Fleet Financial Group agreed to purchase $600 million in credit card receivables for a $48 million premium from VA-based Crestar Bank yesterday. The receivables represent 400,000 accounts located outside of Crestar’s geographic footprint of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., or about half of Crestar’s total card portfolio. Crestar has been dogged by high charge-offs among its national card accounts. About 85% of Crestar’s net charge-offs came from its credit card portfolio. Crestar indicated the sale will produce a total gain of about $54 million to be used towards expanding its consumer and commercial lending businesses. The sale is expected to close this fall. Fleet currently holds $15 billion in card loans among more than 8 million accounts. According to CardData, at the end of the first quarter, Crestar had $1,118,425,219 in receivables; $330,873,539 in quarterly volume; 881,404 gross accounts; 477,121 active accounts and 939,229 cards-in-force.

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