The U.S. Postal Service launched a two-week test yesterday of a virtual post office. During the pilot, 2,300 pre-selected customers will be able to purchase a limited selection of stamps and stamp products on the World Wide Web via credit cards. The ‘StampsOnline’ web site was launched last year to provide information about the stamp program and the hobby of stamp collecting. Since its initial launch, the USPS says 60% of e-mail messages received have been inquiries to purchase stamps online. If this month’s pilot is successful the USPS will open ‘StampsOnline’ to the general public during the first quarter 1998.


Flawed Analysis

The Consumer Federation of America accused the banking industry of “irresponsible” credit card lending that has strapped an estimated 60 million American households with credit card debt exceeding $7,000 on average. To make its case the CFA cited card issuers with high charge-off rates as the most reckless. The consumer group said the “least responsible” banks include Mellon Bank and Hurley State Bank with a 9% charge-off rate, Wells Fargo with an 8.6% chargeoff rate, First Union with an 8.4% loss rate and Advanta with an 8.2% chargeoff rate. Among the “most responsible” issuers cited: MBNA with a 2.1% chargeoff rate, People’s with 2.4% loss rate, Travelers Bank at 2.7% and First USA at 2.9%. The CFA analysis is grossly flawed since it fails to take into account the growth rate in receivables for each issuer. For example chargeoffs are artificially low at MBNA and First USA since both issuers are the two fastest growing major issuers, while Wells Fargo and Advanta are among industry laggards. MBNA’s card loans grew 31% during the period cited by the CFA. By contrast Wells Fargo’s card loans only increased 8% during the same period. Advanta actually experienced a loss in card loans of 14% between mid-year 1996 and 1997. A simplistic analysis argues that if MBNA is growing four times as fast as Wells Fargo then its losses, on a percentage of outstanding basis, would be four times lower.

Growth Rates vs. Loss Rates (2Q96-2Q97)
(change in card outstandings vs charge-off rates)
Mellon -26% 9.0% MBNA +31% 2.1%

Wells Fargo +8% 8.6% People’s +23% 2.4%
First Union +10 8.4% First USA +32% 2.9%
Advanta -14% 8.2% Travelers +41% 2.7%
Source: Bankcard Update/Bankcard Barometer


Dismal Christmas

Unless there is a mad stampede of holiday shopping in the remaining shopping days, 1997 will go down as a disappointing year in retail sales. FDR’s TeleCheck Services said same-store sales, based on checks written, are up a measly 0.3% for the first seventeen shopping days. Based on VISA’s ‘SpendTrak’ and other issuer-reported data, holiday credit card volume is only up 12% this year compared an average of 20% annually since 1993.


Alaska Option Selects BASE24

Applied Communications, Inc. (ACI), a subsidiary of Transaction Systems Architects, Inc., announces the licensing of its BASE24 software to the Alaska Option electronic funds transfer network. Alaska Option will replace its current processing platform with BASE24-atm to process, authorize and switch transactions for its state- wide ATM and debit point-of-sale (POS) network and enable participation in the State of Alaska’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program.

“Our network is used by 23 financial institutions across Alaska, and averages 1.3 million transactions a month. High availability, performance and flexibility are critical requirements,” said B. John Shipe, president and chief executive officer of Alaska Option. “BASE24 helps us to meet these needs with round-the-clock, high-volume processing and the flexibility to offer new services like EBT.”

Designed to operate on Tandem NonStop(R) Himalaya(R) servers, BASE24’s fault-tolerant features offer proven, 24 x 7 availability and high-volume processing. BASE24 also provides state-of-the-art settlement and networking capabilities to efficiently operate in complex switching environments.

BASE24’s open architecture gives Alaska Option the flexibility to customize services offered to its members and add services as needed. “BASE24 provides flexible switch subsystems that give Alaska Option state-of-the-art settlement and routing capabilities,” said Susan Swenson, senior product manager at ACI. “This gives Alaska Option the flexibility to set individual routing schemes, processing parameters and functions for each of its customers and the ability to expand those customized services into areas like Alaska’s EBT program.”

“ACI is proud to be involved in Alaska Option’s roll-out of EBT services,” said Dan Heimann, director of Strategic Marketing at ACI. “The ability to augment BASE24’s full-function switching abilities with value-added services like EBT offers the high performance and reliability EFT networks need to provide convenient, always-available financial services.

Applied Communications, Inc. is a subsidiary of Transaction Systems Architects, Inc. (Nasdaq: TSAI). Transaction Systems’ software facilitates electronic payments and electronic commerce by providing consumers and companies access to their money. The company’s products are used to process transactions involving credit cards, debit cards, smart cards, remote banking services, checks, wire transfers and automated clearing and settlement. Its solutions are used on more than 2,700 product systems in 69 countries on six continents.

Visit TSA and ACI on the World Wide Web at .


Changing of the Guard

Household International announced management succession plans at HFC, the company’s U.S. consumer finance business, and at HFC Bank plc, the company’s United Kingdom business.

In anticipation of his retirement at the end of 1998, Robert F. Elliott will relinquish his role as Group Executive — U.S. Consumer Finance and become vice chairman of Household International. Mr. Elliott will further develop Household’s capabilities in consumer finance portfolio acquisitions, strategic alliances and new product and channel development.

Gary Gilmer, currently managing director and chief executive officer of HFC Bank plc, Household’s U. K. operation, will succeed Mr. Elliott as Group Executive – U.S. Consumer Finance. Mr. Gilmer started with HFC in 1972, and has held a variety of management positions throughout Household. Under his leadership, HFC Bank plc has enjoyed significant growth and profitability and has emerged as one of the United Kingdom’s leading companies in consumer finance and credit cards.

Succeeding Mr. Gilmer as managing director and chief executive officer of HFC Bank plc will be Adrian Hill, presently chief operating officer of the unit. Mr. Hill joined HFC Bank in 1989 and has held several positions, including chief financial officer. Mr. Hill has had direct operating responsibility for the launch and management of the Goldfish Card joint venture with British Gas Trading, one of the most successful new product launches in the U. K. financial services industry.

Commenting on these changes, William F. Aldinger, chairman and chief executive officer of Household, said, “Today’s announcement marks a key milestone for Household, as we have now designated the senior management team that will lead two of our most important businesses into the future. Gary is an extremely talented executive, with a great record of achievements in his career at Household. He has done a terrific job managing our U. K. company, and I look forward to comparable success as Gary takes the helm of HFC.”

Mr. Aldinger continued, “I am also extremely pleased to announce the promotion of Adrian Hill, who has been a vital member of Gary’s team at HFC Bank. As chief operating officer, Adrian has been a leader in developing innovative lending programs while improving the efficiency of our core business.

“Finally, I am pleased that Bob Elliott has agreed to postpone his retirement to the end of next year. As a 33-year veteran of Household, Bob possesses a unique set of skills, experience and wisdom. I expect Bob to be a significant contributor in the areas of portfolio acquisition and joint venture development.”

As Group Executive — U.S. Consumer Finance, Mr. Gilmer will report to Mr. Aldinger. As chief executive officer of HFC Bank plc, Mr. Hill will report to Lawrence N. Bangs, Group Executive-Private Label, United Kingdom, Canada, Insurance, US Consumer Banking and Auto Finance. The management appointments will be effective January, 1998.

Household International, through its subsidiaries, is a leading provider of consumer financial services, primarily consumer lending and credit card products, in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. One of Household’s primary businesses is HFC, the nation’s oldest consumer finance company. Household is also one of the largest issuers of private-label and general purpose credit cards in the United States. Its principal cards include The GM Card and the AFL-CIO’s Union Privilege card.


CashSource Plus Certified

Diebold, Incorporated, a world leader in self-service technology, announced that its CashSource Plus(TM) retail cash dispenser is now certified by 13 electronic financial networks and retail automated teller machine (ATM) deployers.

The growing list includes, most recently, EDS of Texas, the nation’s largest deployer of off-premises ATMs, and M & I Data Services of Wisconsin, one of the Midwest’s largest electronic funds processors. Other networks that have certified the CashSource Plus include MAC/EPS, Wilmington, Del.; Concord Computing, Memphis, Tenn.; InterCept, Norcross, Ga.; US Processing, Brown Deer, Wis.; Shazam Network, Johnston, Iowa; Mellon Network Services, Pittsburgh; Sun Communications, Dallas; CommLink, Houston; EFT Datalink, Inc., Carrollton, Texas; and Lynk Systems, a third party processor based in Atlanta which was first to certify CashSource Plus earlier this year.

Certification is the process by which a network puts the product through multiple tests to ensure its integrity on the network.

Diebold’s CashSource Plus is a low-cost cash dispenser designed specifically for convenience stores, food retailers, gas stations, hotels, drug stores, entertainment locations and other retail locations. In addition to providing consumers with quick access to cash, it dispenses coupons, postage stamps, pre-paid phone vouchers or other revenue-generating items.

“Diebold is very pleased with the reception CashSource Plus is receiving from the nation’s largest electronic financial networks and retail ATM deployers,” said Robert J. Nemens, program manager for Diebold. “The successful launch of the CashSource Plus demonstrates what Diebold does best — providing quality self-service technology that meets the needs of the marketplace with strong installation and service support.”

Diebold, Incorporated (pronounced DEE-bold) headquartered in Canton, Ohio, is a global leader in providing card-based transaction systems, security and service solutions to the financial, education and healthcare industries. Founded in 1859, the company develops, manufactures, sells and services automated teller machines, campus systems, smart card systems, electronic and physical security equipment, automated medication dispensing systems, integrated systems solutions, software and supplies.


VeriFone/NEC Japanese Deal

As Japan’s rapid growth of Internet commerce climbs to reach an estimated $18 billion by the year 2001, VeriFone, Inc., the leading global provider of secure electronic payment solutions, announced today an agreement in principle with NEC to develop and market Internet payment products based on the Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol in Japan.

VeriFone’s SET products will include extensions enabling Japanese consumers to conduct business in the way they are accustomed to while benefiting from the security of the SET standard.

NEC and VeriFone intend to work together to build on the functionality of VeriFone’s Internet payment product suite by implementing the Japanese Payment Options (JPO) to the SET protocol. Sumitomo Credit Services, with 1.7 million merchant customers, plans to be the first to deploy VeriFone’s products complete with JPO extensions.

“NEC is committed to providing world class solutions which meet the needs of the Japanese market,” said Kunihiko Kimura, general manager, Electronic Commerce Business Promotion, NEC Corporation. “By participating with VeriFone, we are utilizing open global standards to deliver products tailored to Japan’s unique payment environment.”

To ensure broad distribution in the complex Japanese market, VeriFone has developed a strategic distribution relationship with NEC Japan, the preeminent supplier of computer products, communications systems and electronic devices. Hewlett-Packard, VeriFone’s parent company, will also distribute with VeriFone in Japan, allowing HP to sell the payment products within its well established hardware channels.

SET, developed by MasterCard and Visa in partnership with VeriFone and other industry leaders, is a standard protocol for safeguarding credit card purchases made over open networks such as the Internet. The power and flexibility of the SET global protocol, also allows for specific extensions necessary to accommodate regional requirements.

MasterCard, Visa, VeriFone and other industry leaders are developing the extensions necessary to make SET products a reality in the Japanese market. By allowing for iterative negotiation and variable payment options, these Japanese extensions allow consumers and merchants to conduct Internet commerce in much the same way as a face-to-face buying situation.

“Internet commerce is a global phenomenon that must accommodate local practices,” said George Hoyem, vice president and general manager Internet Commerce Division, VeriFone. “By partnering with NEC we will be able to address the specific needs of the Japanese market and leverage our expertise in Internet payments to ignite Internet commerce in Japan.”

Building on an existing agreement with Microsoft, VeriFone’s vPOS merchant product with JPO extensions will be integrated with Microsoft’s Site Server, Japan’s premier commerce solution.

“Microsoft and VeriFone are committed to delivering Internet commerce solutions built on a global standard which meet the needs of local business practices,” said Koichi Kato, senior group manager, Personal & Business Systems Product Marketing, Microsoft Co., Ltd. “We believe that the combination of VeriFone’s payment products, NEC’s market expertise and Microsoft’s Back Office and Site Server commerce solution provide all of the necessary elements to unleash the Japan market potential.”

About VeriFone

VeriFone, Inc. (), a wholly owned subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Company, is the leading global provider of secure electronic payment solutions for financial institutions, merchants and consumers. VeriFone has shipped more than six million electronic payment systems, which are used in over 100 countries.

About NEC

NEC Corporation (NASDAQ:NIPNY) pioneered the concept of C&C, the integration of Computers and Communications, and is the only company in the world to be counted among top ranking corporations spanning the wide range of fields essential for this vision of multimedia: computers, communications and electron devices. Employing in excess of 150,000 people around the world, NEC saw net sales in fiscal year 1996-97 amount to 4,948 billion yen (approx. US$40 billion). For further information visit our home page at:


U.S. Wireless Names Director

U.S. Wireless Data, Inc. announced today the appointment of Richard S. Barton to its board of directors. This appointment brings the total number of board members to six.

Mr. Barton serves on the boards of both Avon Products, Inc. and the United States Chamber of Commerce. He is currently chairman, CEO, and president of ADATOM, Inc., a California based company which markets and sells retail and shopping solutions, including electronic catalogues and stores. He assumed these positions in September 1996 after completing a Sloan Fellowship at Stanford University.

Mr. Barton ended a distinguished 24 year career with Xerox Corporation (NYSE:XRX) in 1995. From 1993 to 1995, he held the positions of president, United States Customer Operations as well as corporate vice president. For the prior two years, he served as president, chairman and CEO of Xerox Canada, Inc.

From 1989 to 1991, Mr. Barton was vice president, North American systems sales for Xerox’ Integrated Systems Operations. Prior to 1991, he held several positions at Xerox that included, vice president marketing operations for Xerox’ United States Marketing Group, and executive assistant to the president, chairman, and CEO of Xerox Corp.

Mr. Barton earned his B.S. from Adelphi University, completed the Wharton Executive Development Program and the Wharton International Forum’s China, Japan, Europe and United States segments at the University of Pennsylvania and holds a master in business management from Stanford University.

Commenting on the appointment, Evon Kelly, CEO of U.S. Wireless Data, stated, “It is with great pride and enthusiasm that we welcome Mr. Barton to the board of U.S. Wireless Data. I look forward to drawing off of his tremendous breadth of business acumen, experience and contacts as we strive to make U.S. Wireless Data the industry standard in wireless transaction and credit card processing.”

USWDA’s proprietary enabling technology, TRANZ(TM) Enabler, converts a merchant’s existing dial-up TRANZ VeriFone credit-card terminal into a high-speed wireless terminal. It provides merchants with a faster and more cost efficient way to transact business. The wireless transaction takes 3 to 5 seconds verses 11 to 20 seconds with a dial-up service.

Going wireless means the merchant no longer needs a dedicated or shared telephone line to carry transaction traffic, thereby eliminating delays, busy signals and the cost to install or pay for monthly telephone service.

U.S. Wireless Data, Inc. has developed, tested and is now delivering compelling new proprietary products, programs and standards to the transaction processing and credit card industry which utilize Cellular Digital Packet Data (“CDPD”) wireless networks. USWD delivers the fastest and most cost-effective transaction processing solution to retail merchants in the United States today — wired or wireless.

USWD will generate recurring revenue from every transaction processed by merchants who utilize the company’s CDPD wireless technology. The company’s strategy will be to deploy its technology through marketing and partnership agreements with major cellular phone companies, regional and community banks, select ISO’s, and its own sales force.


Health Charge Corp Launches Card

Health Charge Corp. and Christ Hospital announced the execution of a contract to provide the Health Charge credit card program to patients of Christ Hospital in Jersey City, N.J. The program will begin this month.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with Christ Hospital, which is the first hospital to select Health Charge since the announcement of our alliance with the New Jersey Hospital Association,” said Bruce Nelson, vice president of development of the Health Charge Corp. “Health Charge provides an easy-to-manage credit program at competitive rates to patients seeking to finance their deductibles, co-payments and uninsured medical expenses. We know that our program will reduce costs and improve patient relations at Christ Hospital.”

“The Health Charge program will help our patients who have significant medical bills,” said Drew Lerman, director of finance at Christ Hospital. “This program will help us better manage our operation by out-sourcing the collection of many self-pay balances.”

On Nov. 3, 1997, Health Charge Corp. and the New Jersey Hospital Association entered into an alliance to present the Health Charge Credit Card Program to NJHA members.

Health Charge Corp., founded in 1979, provides private label credit card programs to hospitals and other healthcare providers nationwide. In addition, Health Charge provides business office and systems consulting and proprietary receivables management software to hospitals. Health Charge is affiliated with HealthCare Financial Partners Inc., (NASDAQ:HCFP).

The New Jersey Hospital Association, based in Princeton, N.J., is a trade group committed to helping its 115 member hospitals provide accessible, affordable and quality healthcare in their communities through advocacy, education, research and policy development.


Citibank Canada Goverment Card

Citibank Canada has been awarded a competitive contract to provide services for the Federal Government Acquisition Card Program. Under the Program, departments and agencies will use a commercial credit card, in this case a Visa card, to make government purchases in accordance with federal policy. This contract will create 23 jobs.

The announcement was made today by Bill Graham, MP for Toronto Centre – Rosedale, on behalf of the Honourable Alfonso Gagliano, Minister of Public Works and Government Services. “A credit card is ideally suited to helping government departments and agencies become more responsive and cost- effective,” said Mr. Graham. “The use of this card will streamline government operations and reinforce its advantages over traditional means of payment.”

Mr. Graham added that the Program is a smarter and more efficient way of doing business as it will reduce the number of cheques that must be issued by the government; reduce the need for industry to submit invoices; and ensure that businesses are paid more promptly.

The Acquisition Card Program ensures that the Government of Canada benefits from new banking technologies. It will also give the Crown financial rebates for timely payment of departmental and agency accounts. Under the terms of this Program, Citibank Canada will provide the Government of Canada with rebates based on the length of the payment period and the total dollar amount of the transactions.


Travelers Express-Game Financial Merge

Travelers Express and Game Financial Corporation, two Minneapolis-based firms, completed a $51 million merger transaction which was announced earlier this fall. The transaction is effective today. The merger brings together two leading payment services companies which specialize in separate markets. Travelers Express, a subsidiary of Viad Corp (NYSE:VVI), serves retailers and financial institutions and Game Financial (NASDAQ:GFIN) serves the gaming industry.

“The merger fits very well into our corporate expansion plans, brings us a new market sector in the payment services field and will allow us to cross-sell Game products and services to our existing customers,” said Philip W. Milne, president and chief executive officer of Travelers Express. “It also will fuel Game Financial’s continued growth and bring new services to Game’s customers.”

The two companies will continue to maintain separate operations and management teams in Minneapolis, but Game Financial will operate as a Travelers Express subsidiary. Gary A. Dachis, Game Financial’s founder, president and chief executive officer will continue to run Game Financial.

Game Financial was founded in 1990 and provides cash access services including credit card advances, check cashing and ATM services in approximately 90 casinos across the nation. For the first nine months of 1997, the company’s revenues have increased 81 percent to $24.1 million.

Travelers Express’ parent company, Viad Corp of Phoenix, issued common stock in exchange for 100 percent of the outstanding shares of Game Financial. Game Financial stockholders received $10.75 per share of Game Financial stock for approximately $51 million.

Travelers Express, which has been owned by Viad since 1965, is the largest money order processor and second largest electronic bill payment processor in the nation. In 1996, it processed more than 750 million transactions, including official checks and share drafts for financial institutions.

Viad Corp is a $2.5 billion services company with businesses in airline catering, convention services and travel and leisure, as well as payment services.


Cap One Contributes to Food Bank

Capital One today announced a holiday gift of $500,000 to support Second Harvest Food Banks in each of Capital One’s cities of operation in the United States. Capital One’s donation will be used to provide funding for the local Second Harvest Food Banks to embark on a major endeavor — the Capital One Kids Cafe — to feed children at risk during the holidays and throughout 1998 as well as provide solid educational tools and a nurturing environment to prepare them for the future.

“Capital One is committed to the communities where we work and live,” said Richard D. Fairbank, Capital One’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “We realize that hunger is not just a holiday concern, so we wanted our gift to have long-term impact and make a measurable difference in the lives of children.”

Capital One’s $500,000 contribution will be made to local Second Harvest Food Banks in each of the following cities: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas; Tampa, Florida; Richmond, Virginia; Fredericksburg, Virginia; and metropolitan Washington, D.C. In addition, Capital One associates will have significant mentoring and tutoring opportunities to be involved with the Kids Cafe through the Capital One Volunteer Organization.

Headquartered in Falls Church, Va., Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE: COF) is a financial services company whose principal subsidiaries, Capital One Bank, and Capital One, F.S.B., offer consumer lending products. Capital One’s subsidiaries collectively had 10.7 million customers and $13.5 billion in managed loans outstanding as of September 30, 1997, and are among the largest providers of MasterCard and Visa credit cards in the world. Capital One’s Internet address is .