Rate Cap

Argentina’s Congress is expected this week to move legislation forward to cap credit card interest rates. The action follows some government research, released last month, that shows some credit card issuers charging interest rates as high as 55%. The proposed bill limits credit card rates to the Central Bank’s implicit lending rate plus 20%. Currently there is no usury ceiling in Argentina.

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Mother’s Day Volume

Bank of Montreal reports this morning that credit card transaction volume for the Mother’s Day weekend was the second highest period, second only to Christmas. Debit card use for Mother’s Day ranked among the four highest volume days too.  Bank of Montreal projected Friday it will process 1.8 million debit transactions Sunday, a 31% increase over last year. The bank also projected 1.2 million credit card transactions. Canadians typically use debit for smaller purchases and credit for larger purchases. The average debit card transaction runs about $50 while the average credit card transaction is slightly more than $90. Bank of Montreal operates over 50,000 debit POS terminals across Canada.

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Web Hot

Huntington National Bank confirmed this morning its ‘Web Bank’ has surpassed the 100,000 account mark. The number of online accounts represents an astonishing 5% of Huntington’s customer households. The ‘Huntington Web Bank’ enables customers to view account information, reconcile statements, pay bills,  transfer funds and prepare reports anytime. The banking site was launched in June of last year. The bank introduced the ‘Business Web Bank’ in April. Huntington says it will announce brokerage and credit card services via the Web Bank this summer.

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Optical Card War

Drexler Technology is warning Microsoft today that MS’s entry into the optical ROM card market could possibly lead to infringement of five of Drexler’s U.S. patents plus additional foreign counterpart patents. It has been widely reported that Microsoft is planning for active participation in the optical ROM card market. Drexler Technology has received optical-memory-card related patent license fees of over $35 million to date. Licensees include British Telecommunications, Canon, Hitachi, and Matsushita. Drexler Technology has received orders from the U.S. government totaling 4 million digital optical memory cards to be used by the INS as digital ‘Green Cards’ and by the U.S. State Department as ‘Laser Visa’ cards.

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New Bio Card

Following last week’s introduction of a biodegradable card into the U.S. by Household Bank and Greenpeace USA, Japan’s Orient Corp. and Dai Nippon Printing  Co. announced Friday a new biodegradable credit card.  Orient will issue its first bio cards, on May 25, to Dai Nippon Printing employees. The cards will be issued to the general public later this year. The new bio card incorporates plastic material made of vegetable substances and is dioxin-free.

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BAMS Board

The Board of Directors of BA Merchant Services announced the the resignation last week of H. Eugene Lockhart.  The BAMS board also announced the appointment of Hatim Tyabji and Christopher A. Callero to the Board. Tyabji is chairman of the board, president and CEO of of VeriFone. Callero is group EVP and head of Bank of America’s Global Retail Bank Deposit and Payment Services Division. This includes deposit products, interactive banking, ATMs and self-service delivery, debit cards and business banking.

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March Winds

Consumer credit remains strong so far this year for both the revolving and automobile segments. According to March consumer credit figures released by the Federal Reserve, Thursday afternoon, revolving credit grew at an annual rate of 1.3% compared to a 0.5% rate for last March. Meanwhile automobile consumer credit is roaring with an annual growth rate of 8.4% for March compared to a -3.6% last year. At the end of March, American consumers were $1.242 trillion in debt, exclusive of home mortgages.

                                 REVOLVING CREDIT HISTORICAL
Mar98  Feb98   Jan98   Dec97   Nov97  Oct97  Sep97 Aug97 Jul97 Jun97    
%GRWTH: 1.3%    8.4     4.7     2.3    -2.1   10.0    6.2 8.0   9.4   4.2           
$OWED:  $537.2  536.6   532.9   530.8  529.8  530.7   526.4   523.7 520.2  516.2      
              Source: Federal Reserve; revised figures as of 05/07/98

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ECS Names Marketing SVP

Electronic Card Systems, Inc., (ECS) has appointed Ryan O’Connor as Senior Vice President of Marketing, it was announced Thursday.  ECS is one of the nation’s leading providers of merchant credit card accounts, specializing in the electronic commerce industry.  ECS develops and markets customized merchant credit card processing solutions that typically include real-time processing, risk management and reporting systems for Internet retailers and other electronic commerce merchants.

O’Connor comes to ECS with a strong background in managing national marketing campaigns for merchant credit card processing and risk management systems.  Immediately prior to joining ECS, O’Connor was Executive Vice President in charge of sales and operations at Card Payment Systems, Inc., a New York-based Independent Service Organization.

Previously, O’Connor was Vice President of Business Development for Risk Management Systems,. Inc., and its affiliate, Applied Data Services, Inc., in Los Angeles.  Risk Management Systems grew from a start-up into a leading source of risk management and information systems for major national credit card processors during his tenure.

A native of Los Angeles, O’Connor is a graduate of Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA, with degrees in Business Management and Finance.

Reporting to ECS Chief Executive Officer Charles S. Crawford, O’Connor will be responsible for all of the Company’s marketing programs, including in- house sales, the network of Independent Service Organizations and independent sales representatives, trade show participation, advertising and strategic sales and marketing alliances.

“Ryan O’Connor is exceptionally well-equipped to help us move forward as the leading source of customized merchant accounts for electronic commerce and internet-based businesses, Crawford said.  “He has solid national visibility in the credit card industry and possesses a keen understanding of the importance of providing merchants with innovative, value-added services that enable them to thrive.”

Electronic Card Systems is affiliated with R.J. Gordon & Company, a four- year veteran of the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies and a leading source of innovation and technology for the electronic commerce industry.

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Discover Connection

EarthLink Network recieved its largest partnership yesterday in a marketing alliance with the Discover Card. The service, called ‘Discover Connection’, offers exclusive features and awards to Discover cardholders who sign up for EarthLink’s ‘TotalAccess Internet’ service. ‘Discover Connection’ will feature EarthLink’s $19.95 monthly unlimited Internet service, which will be promoted  through credit card billing inserts and on Discover’s web site. Cardholders who register for an EarthLink account through ‘Discover Connection’ will also receive additional mailboxes, personalized and localized content through Planet Direct, and a five percent ‘Cashback Bonus Award’ from Discover Card. The Discover Card Web site allows Cardmembers to view their last six monthly statements and current transaction information online. Consumers can also apply for the card online.

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Garden Way Card

Green Tree Retail Services and Garden Way Inc. reached agreements yesterday for a private-label credit card program to service Garden Way’s consumer direct and independent dealer channels. Garden Way manufactures ‘TROY-BILT’ rototillers and chipper vacs and Bolens riding lawn tractor. Under terms of the agreement Green Tree will acquire Garden Way’s current card portfolio. Green Tree will offer Garden Way cardholders faster customer service, POS credit decisions and targeted promotions. Green Tree now has 11 major manufacturers and retailers that are using its credit card services, and has issued over 1 million credit cards with customer receivables standing at nearly $500 million.

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