MC- Relais & Chateaux

MasterCard and the upscale, international hotel and restaurant chain Relais & Chateaux announced yesterday a deal to provide exclusive benefits to MasterCard cardholders. The first initiative is a special service for ‘World MasterCard’, ‘Platinum MasterCard’, ‘Corporate MasterCard’ and ‘Executive MasterCard’ cardholders, which will offer a toll-free, priority worldwide reservations system for Relais Gourmands, the restaurants of Relais & Chateaux. The service  will be operational in July. MasterCard and Relais & Chateaux will also develop an Internet site specifically for the new restaurant service. Both firms are also planning to develop special hotel packages, based upon each property’s location and regional attractions. The package might include an invitation to a private vineyard, a complimentary dinner or a gift unique to the area. Relais & Chateaux has 415 hotels and 114 restaurants in 40 countries.

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VISA Interchange

VISA U.S.A.’s interchange rates will rise again next April. The standard interchange rate will rise to 2.17% plus 10 cents and the retail credit rate will go from 1.31% to 1.45%.  Offline check cards will jump from 1.04% plus 6 cents to 1.16% plus 10 cents. Supermarkets will see offline check card rates bump up to 40 cents from 36 cents and credit card fees nudge up to 1.20% from 1.15%. VISA’s new dual online/offline ‘Check Card’, to be launched this fall, will initially carry a 25 cent interchange for online use in supermarkets and a 0.56% plus 10 cents rate for online retail use.

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Mondex Goes ActiveStore

Mondex USA said Tuesday its ‘ReadiMondex’ software can now run within ActiveStore’s systems framework services. Mondex is the first electronic cash/smart card application that can operate within the ActiveStore environment, Microsoft’s retail technology architecture for store-level applications. Geared toward businesses with Windows-driven back-office systems, ‘ReadiMondex’ is turnkey software that will help retailers and other users deploy Mondex electronic cash quickly, easily and inexpensively. ReadiMondex has two components: ‘A Software Developers’ Kit’ , and software for managing the back-office chip farm. ActiveStore works to define Active X components and high-level business processes and data interfaces between major store-level applications like POS. It addresses issues such as shared data elements and business rules, systems integration and navigation.

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New Interactive Terminal

Checkmate Electronics rolled-out its new ‘eN-Touch 1000’ interactive terminal yesterday. The ‘eN-Touch 1000’ technology blends the best of Checkmate’s credit, debit, EBT and electronic signature systems with large display functionality. It is the only terminal combining finger touch and electronic signature capture with signature verification. The high resolution graphics capability can also be used for a myriad of customer specific applications including advertising, personal messaging, instant credit, loyalty programs, cross-selling, electronic couponing, surveys, managerial signoff, information kiosks and product locators.

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Luv Dat ATM

It also comes as no surprise to learn that most consumers prefer to get cash from ATMs than any other alternative. According to a study of electronic banking usage conducted by Analytica, Inc. for Magic Line, Inc., consumers have abandoned  the old “poke and hope” theory, whereby consumers will put the card in any machine and hope it works. Today, brand recognition is crucial among consumers when using cards at the ATM machine or in retail settings for purchases. Other Magic Line findings: about 69% of Americans have an ATM/debit card; 39% have used POS debit cards;   only 12.3% have made an Internet purchase with a payment card and 42% of those not using cards on-line said security was the reason.

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DoD  I.M.P.A.C.

It was no surprise that U.S. Bancorp’s Payment Systems division was awarded the Department of Defense’s purchasing card contract yesterday. The award gives U.S. Bancorp exclusive rights to issue purchasing cards to authorized Army, Air Force and DoD Agency users for three years with seven one-year renewal options.  This program will also include the development of systems enabling electronic commerce and related technology. U.S. Bank, through I.M.P.A.C. Government Services, has been the exclusive issuer of purchasing cards to all government agencies for the past decade.  In 1997, DoD – I.M.P.A.C. card purchases totaled nearly $2.75 billion on 6.2 million transactions. Originally used only for micro-purchases of $2,500 or less, more than 30% of I.M.P.A.C. cards are now authorized for higher single purchases limits, with many approved for purchases of $100,000 or more. Yesterday’s contract, to be effective Dec. 1, 1998, was awarded under provisions of a master government contract issued in Feb. by the GSA.

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Eltron Cuts Prices

Eltron International, manufacturer of thermal-label and plastic-card printers, announced Tuesday it has lowered prices on two of its popular printers. The new price of $3,995 for the P400 lowers the cost of dual- sided full color printing to $1,500 below that of the nearest competitor. The P500’s new price of $6,495 lowers the cost of printing and laminating cards to $1,000 below that of its nearest competitor. Primary applications for Eltron’s card printers include personal ID, security, access control, membership and loyalty cards, on-demand smart cards and magnetic- stripe cards.

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VA Joins IBAA EFT

ARLINGTON, Va. IBAA Bancard, the IBAA’s payment services subsidiary, announced today that its affiliation with the Virginia Association of Community Banks (VACB) has been expanded to include an endorsement of Bancard’s EFT, ATM and debit card programs. This announcement complements the VACB’s decision, last October, to join 32 other state banking associations that endorse Bancard’s credit card program. Forty-two Virginia banks are already participants in IBAA Bancard programs, issuing credit and debit cards at competitive rates.

“IBAA Bancard has a great deal to offer the locally owned and operated community banks that comprise the VACB,” remarked IBAA Bancard Director Ron Miller. Bancard’s EFT program is the most cost-effective way for our members to offer the cutting-edge technology their customers are demanding.

“I am very excited about adding Bancard’s EFT program to the list of IBAA products which we endorse,” said Patricia Satterfield, the state organization’s executive director. “In the time that we have been involved with IBAA Bancard, we’ve been very happy with the quality of service our members have received. Bancard’s mission of helping community banks stay independent and offer quality products and services to their customers is well aligned with the VACB’s commitment to community banking.”

“We are extremely proud that the VACB has chosen to endorse our EFT program. Through our partnership with Fiserv EFT, we are able to make debit and ATM services available to all IBAA members, ” noted IBAA Bancard Chairman Richard Mount.

IBAA Bancard was launched in 1985 by the Independent Bankers Association of America and provides community banks with the opportunity to become independent issuers of Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards. IBAA Bancard is the only national card program dedicated exclusively to the payment system needs of the nation’s community banks.

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FDC – KeyBank Check Alliance

Integrated Payment Systems Inc., a subsidiary of First Data Corporation and KeyBank National Association, the $70 billion national banking unit of KeyCorp, announced Tuesday the creation of a strategic alliance in which the companies will provide remittance and check processing services to corporate clients.

Combined, the companies will offer corporations a full-service, value- added option for their cash management needs.  Integrated Payment Systems already is one of the country’s largest processors of money orders and official checks, having processed more than 250 million items valued at more than $350 billion in 1997.  KeyBank offers its experience as a leading financial institution, an extensive bank marketing network and its access to the Federal Reserve.  Integrated Payment Systems will manage check and remittance processing strategies and KeyBank will manage client relationships for the alliance.

The companies also announced the signing of Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI) as their first joint client.  The alliance companies will process checks sent to TCI by approximately eight million customers each month in payment for their cable television services.

“The decision to use this service is a key component to our improving the quality of processing payments and information from our customers, which yields an even better customer experience,” said Barney Schotters, executive vice president and treasurer for TCI.

Neither the terms of the alliance or the TCI contract were disclosed.

“Effective check processing is basic blocking and tackling,” said Jack Calabrese, senior vice president, Operations, with Integrated Payment Systems. “And just like the basics of any business, some do it better than others.  In banking services, effective check processing gives you faster access to your funds and that equates to stronger cash flow, better investment decisions and maximizing investments.

“Our alliance with KeyBank is designed to provide regional corporate customers with all the benefits of an effective check and remittance processing program,” Calabrese continued.  “We offer our clients a complete package — from competitive pricing to faster funds availability — all based on many years of experience in the money order and official check processing businesses.”

“KeyBank is always looking for ways to improve or expand the spectrum of services we provide our clients either on their own or through a strategic partnership,” said Jim Peoples, president of KeyBank’s Colorado District. “This alliance with IPS enables us to enhance processing capabilities and add value for many of our own corporate clients.”

Integrated Payment Systems’ entry into third-party check and remittance processing was a strategic decision based on the company’s desire to reduce costs by becoming the processor of its own official checks and money orders. Although check processing has traditionally been done by banks, Integrated Payment Systems created an agreement in 1997 to utilize KeyBank’s Federal Reserve routing number to become its own check processor.

Based on Integrated Payment Systems’ success and additional capacity, the companies joined forces to sell check processing services to corporate clients.  The alliance gives KeyBank a strong local presence in check processing, which will allow it to expand and build stronger relationships with its customers.

KeyCorp is one of the nation’s largest financial services companies with assets of approximately $73 billion.  Through four principal lines of business — corporate capital, consumer finance, community banking, and capital partners — the Cleveland-based company provides retail and wholesale banking, investment, financing, and money management services to individuals and companies across the U.S.  Key companies have a presence in 46 states from Maine to Alaska, including its network of KeyCenters, 2,200 ATMs, affiliate offices, and four telebanking centers (1-800-KEY2YOU) that provide financial products and services 24 hours a day, everyday of the year.  KeyCorp’s web site can be found at

Founded in 1992, Hackensack, NJ-based First Data Corporation is a global leader in payment systems, electronic commerce and information management products and services.  First Data and its principal operating units process the information that allows millions of consumers to pay for goods and services by credit, debit or smart card at the point of sale or over the Internet; by check or wire money.  For additional information, please visit the company’s web site at .

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FICI – VisionPLUS

Columbia Capital Corp. announced yesterday that it has signed a new contract with PaySys International, Inc., for the use of its state-of-the-art credit card management system, VisionPLUS.

As part of the agreement, PaySys will market the processing services of Columbia’s wholly-owned subsidiary First Independent Computers, Inc. (FICI) to potential customers whose processing volumes are not sufficient to process in-house.

Ken Klotz, president of Columbia, stated, “There are many small- to medium-sized institutions that want to use industry leading software, but simply cannot afford the cost. Since PaySys is recognized as the leader in card processing software, they often receive inquiries from customers who are looking for new software or alternatives to their present third-party processors. PaySys is in the perfect position to refer those small- to medium-sized customers to FICI.”

PaySys’ CEO and president, Stephen Grubb added: “We at PaySys are very pleased to extend our fifteen year old FICI relationship with this new contract. The credit card industry is growing in its business and resulting processing complexity. We believe that the FICI/PaySys VisionPLUS solution provides an attractive alternative for bank and private label card issuers who wish to outsource their processing requirements. Banks, retailers, and finance companies seeking a state-of-the-art processing solution will find it at FICI.

“FICI joins eight other processors in various regions of the world who have selected VisionPLUS as the processing solution for their customers,” he continued, “FICI now offers a premier processing solution with premier service.”

PaySys has identified institutions who wish to transfer their processing to FICI, and anticipates that this will result in a significant number of new accounts for FICI within the next twelve months.

FICI has enjoyed a long-term relationship with PaySys and helped them develop the industry-standard CardPac software and the new, fully-integrated VisionPLUS system. This new contract expands the relationship between the two companies.

Mr. Klotz said that FICI is already in the process of converting some of its accounts onto VisionPLUS and hopes to have all of them converted before year-end.

The best-selling VisionPLUS, a Year 2000 compliant and user-friendly card management system, offers many enhancements not available with CardPac. As the latest evolution of the PaySys technology, it handles consumer loans, retail, and bankcard functionality all in one seamlessly integrated suite of systems.

PaySys International, Inc.’s () credit card management software-solutions are used by more banks, finance companies, processors and retail establishments throughout the world than any other system. PaySys employs over 400 people worldwide. Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., PaySys also has support and development offices in Orlando, Fla. and Columbus, Ohio in the U.S. and internationally in Australia, Costa Rica, Ireland, Singapore and South Africa.

Columbia Capital Corp. operates through its wholly-owned subsidiary, First Independent Computers, Inc., which is a multi-faceted information and transaction processing service organization. The services provided by the company include credit and debit card processing, health care industry processing, bank and financial services processing, and document management and distribution services. The company concentrates on a niche market, consisting of small- to medium-sized financial institutions that have not achieved the economics of scale to operate their own programs and systems.

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World MC Study

The first study on the ‘World MasterCard’ was released yesterday by Atlanta-based Brittain Associates. Brittain says there are just three issuers of the new product: Bank of America, Household and First USA. BofA and First USA are charging a $49 annual fee while Household’s version comes with a $75 annual fee. Brittain also says BofA and Household require a minimum household income of $50,000, while First USA has lowered the threshold to $30,000.

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