BMG VISA

Wachovia’s effort to diversify its card portfolio beyond lower priced, plain vanilla credit card offers, takes off today with the national launch of the ‘BMG VISA’ card. This is Wachovia’s first cobranding venture and comes at a time when existing cobranded programs are encountering profit erosion, industry wide, due to shifting cardholder habits. Wachovia’s program with BMG Entertainment will combine a below average interest rate with a hassle-free rewards program. The no-annual-fee ‘BMG VISA’ features a 7.9% six-month promo rate, and a prime +7.9% long term rate. Cardholders receive points based on charge volume with accumulated points tallied with each month’s statement. Points may be redeemed for a wide range of BMG products, from CDs to international trips to music award shows. Marketing includes a multi-million piece mail drop and on-line applications. However as of this morning the ‘BMG VISA’ website was not operational.

Details

Paymentech Signs Wolfgang Puck

First USA Paymentech, Inc., a leading bankcard processor, has added two well-known restaurateurs to its growing list of hospitality merchants. Jerry’s Famous Deli and Wolfgang Puck Food Company have selected Paymentech as their new electronic payment solution for all of their locations across the country.

Paymentech will process point-of-sale (POS) authorization and capture transactions as well as settlement for approximately $48 million in annual credit card volume from 19 Wolfgang Puck locations and $21 million sales volume for 10 Jerry’s Famous Deli sites.

“Wolfgang Puck is a popular, expanding concept,” said Jeff C. Arnold, vice president of finance. “We looked for a new processor that would match our commitment to service by offering upgraded customer service and enhanced reporting options.”

“Jerry’s has highly impressed with Paymentech’s customer service,” said Christina L. Sterling, chief financial officer of Jerry’s Famous Deli. “They understand the restaurant business. In fact, Paymentech has developed a full range of services that specifically focus on the restaurant industry.”

According to Gary T. Staub, Paymentech’s group executive for business development, the hospitality market has become a significant niche for the full-service payment processor. “We have added point-of-sale (POS) applications for this market as well as increased our range of customer service activities. We also continue to expand our relationships with POS hardware value-added resellers.”

At the topof Paymentech’s menu of products that offer benefits of particular interest to restaurateurs is an enhanced version of SE Workstation. This product was developed in partnership by American Express and Paymentech.

SE Workstation is the first PC-based application that enables merchants to electronically access both American Express and bankcard financial reporting. The Windows-based program allows merchants to receive and respond on-line to cardholder inquiries. Adding bankcard data access improves a restaurant’s ability to quickly handle chargeback issues.

Headquartered in Studio City, California, Jerry’s Famous Deli operates 10 upscale casual dining locations including such well known sites as Hollywood and Costa Mesa, California, and Miami Beach, Florida. The restaurant features a 700-plus item menu in a high-energy Broadway theater environment.

Wolfgang Puck Food Company, L.P., based in Santa Monica, California, operates 13 Wolfgang Puck Cafes, four Wolfgang Puck Express units and two ObaChines, with another ObaChine scheduled to open October in Phoenix, Arizona.

First USA Paymentech, Inc., founded in 1985, provides full-service electronic payment solutions, processing approximately 392 million total transactions in the June 1997 quarter. As the third largest processor of bankcard transactions in the United States, Paymentech processed approximately $41.3 billion in bankcard sales volume during fiscal year 1997. Paymentech also issues commercial card products to businesses and other entities, and provides commercial card payment and information processing.

Details

pcOrder.com & HP Team

pcOrder.com, a leading provider of electronic commerce technology and services for the computer industry, today announced that Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HWP) will adopt pcOrder as a technology partner for electronic commerce initiatives.

HP will work with pcOrder on a number of Web-based projects in the first phase of deployment. Electronic commerce is a strategic direction for HP and will be a crucial supporting element in helping the company reach its goal of becoming the number one vendor of PCs. Electronic commerce capabilities will help HP build on its already strong relationship with its channel partners.

The work with HP underscores pcOrder’s growing role in bringing channel-focused electronic commerce to the PC industry. This announcement adds another major vendor to the increasing number of manufacturers who partner with pcOrder for e-commerce. pcOrder’s technology currently enables the electronic commerce programs of hundreds of major corporate resellers, VARs and distributors.

“pcOrder is one of the components in HP’s plans to integrate electronic commerce into our marketing, sales and distribution strategy,” said Stephanie Acker-Moy, Worldwide Channel Marketing Manager for HP’s Commercial Channels Organization. “pcOrder will ensure that HP has the leading edge in electronic commerce by deploying on an open platform used by our channel partners.” HP’s Commercial Channels Organization has immediate plans to deploy pcOrder behind the HP Web site, where it will play an important supporting role in HP’s marketing and distribution strategy for product lines that include the HP Kayak PC, HP Vectra PC, HP Brio PC, HP NetServer systems and HP LaserJet printers.

“HP’s adoption of pcOrder demonstrates our progress in delivering sophisticated electronic commerce solutions to market leaders in every segment of the computer industry,” said Christina C. Jones, President of pcOrder. “Our technology and services are now used across the entire PC selling chain, from manufacturer, to distributor, reseller and end customer. The result is an end-to-end improvement in productivity, customer responsiveness and communications.”

About Hewlett Packard

Hewlett-Packard Company is a leading global provider of computing, Internet, and intranet solutions; services; communications products and measurement solutions, — all of which are recognized for excellence in quality and support. It is the second largest computer supplier in the United States with computer-related revenue in excess of $31.4 billion in its 1996 fiscal year. HP has 120,500 employees and had revenue of $38.4 billion in its 1996 fiscal year.

About pcOrder.com

By partnering with major manufacturers, distributors, corporate resellers and VARs, pcOrder.com is revolutionizing the way computer products are bought and sold. pcOrder offers the computer industry a new vision of electronic commerce by providing an advanced electronic sales channel, access to improved market data and a new interactive forum for marketing. pcOrder is located at 6034 West Courtyard Drive, Suite 210, Austin, Texas 78730. Telephone: 512-342-0100; Fax: 512-342-0200.

(World Wide Web address: )

Details

SpeedPass Becomes SpeedPay in NJ

Mobil Corp’s new push into fast-pay-at-the-pump technology has hit a roadblock in New Jersey. New Jersey is not a self-serve state, so customers at more than 400 Mobil gas stations in the state are not able to participate in Mobil’s new ‘SpeedPass’ program. As an alternative Mobil has created a ‘SpeedPay’ system that uses hand-held activated terminals for credit card transactions. The terminals are attached to an attendant’s belt so the customer can remain in the car, and since no signature is required, customers have the option of waiting for the receipt or not. ‘SpeedPass’ is a key tag with a imbedded transponder enabling customers to conduct a totally electronic payment transaction at the pump.. Mobil introduced SpeedPass slightly more than one year ago and has systems on-line in major metropolitan areas such as South Florida, Washington DC, Chicago and St. Louis.

Details

Card Debt Drives High LTV Mortgages

The hottest new product in mortgage lending is getting hotter as consumer credit card and installment debt now exceeds $1.25 trillion. Last year the mortgage industry originated $3 billion of 125% LTV second mortgage loans and is now expected to close over $10 billion of such loans this year. Maryland-based First Fidelity Financial announced yesterday its mass marketing efforts have paid off, as 125% LTV loans comprise 52% of the company’s total loan production. FFF says the loans are used primarily to consolidate credit card debt.

Details

Big Bank – Bigger Fees

A Coral Gables, FL bank research firm says banks with assets over $300 million are earning about six times more on service fee income than they were earning one year ago. Bauer Financial Reports analyzed bank service fee income for the first quarter 1996 and the first quarter 1997 and found large banks earned 2.7 basis points less than the industry average for smaller institutions during 1Q 96. One year later the roles were reversed and big banks earned 11.6 basis points more. Bauer attributes the rise to the growth in ATM fees, on-line transaction fees and fees charged for live teller contact.

Details

Fantastic Plastic Promotion

A computer supplies wholesaler introduced an incentive program for resellers yesterday that features a MasterMoney card. El Segundo, CA-based DISC Distributing is running the ‘Fantastic Plastic’ promotion from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 and is offering a $25-$50 credit for each $2,500 in purchases. The rebate amount varies with vendor products and is unlimited. The earned rebates are deposited to a MasterCard debit card account and may be accessed via a MasterMoney card. Large customers can earn multiple cards, distributing the cards as sales incentives or to top performing employees.

Details

Profit & Loss Finder

Fairfax, VA-based NeuralTech Inc. introduced a new credit card risk management tool that provides up to six months advance notice of potentially high risk accounts, enabling card issuers to take proactive steps to minimize losses. Released Monday, ‘SHERLOCK’ incorporates a neural network that analyzes masterfile and transactional data to identify both the potential for future receivable loss due to bankruptcy and the profitability of cardholder accounts. The neural network behind ‘SHERLOCK’ is based on NT’s proprietary ‘BRNULI’ algorithm. NT recently completed preliminary testing of ‘SHERLOCK’ and the ‘BRNULI’ model and is now looking for additional card issuers.

Details

Gemplus Canadian Research Center

Gemplus today announced that it has established a research and development center in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The center will focus on the development of smart card operating systems and support the implementation of smart card applications for customers in North and South America. It will also develop new technologies designated by Gemplus’ Technology Innovation Center in San Mateo, Ca.

Over the next three years, Gemplus will invest some $20 million in smart card research and development in the Americas, and expects to employ as many as 100 professionals from science, research and engineering at the new center. Gemplus also has R&D centers in France and Singapore.

“Establishing an R&D center for the Americas will enable Gemplus to be much closer to the evolution of new technologies such as the Internet. As a result, we will be able to better adapt new smart card products such as the Java Card to the local market,” said Guy Dartigues, director of the Americas Development Center. “We believe that proximity to these developments will greatly enhance our creativity and efficiency, and result in better support to existing partners and the creation of new partnerships.”

“This is a major investment by Gemplus and reflects our belief in and commitment to the widespread adoption of smart card technology in the Americas,” said Brigitte Baumann, president of Gemplus Corporation (U.S. and Canada).

In 1996, Gemplus invested 6% of its total smart card related sales in R&D, a level of spending it has maintained for several years. Since the company’s founding, R&D has played a central role in the Gemplus’ success. It has been responsible for innovations that include the introduction in 1988 of COS (chip operating system), in 1994, of MPCOS (multiple payment chip operating system), and more recently, of GPK2000, the first public key smart card.

Recent R&D efforts have focused on using smart card technology and cryptography to protect data communicated over open networks; second generation contactless cards; hardware miniaturization (including PCMCIA smart card interfaces and the GemCore chip set); and extended SMS (short message service) technology that allows remote programming of smart cards and readers for different kinds of smart card applications including Internet, healthcare, gaming, transportation and secure database access.

About Gemplus

Gemplus is the world’s leading producer of magnetic stripe and smart cards. It manufactures and sells memory cards, microprocessor cards (both contact and contactless), magnetic stripe cards, as well as electronic tags. It also designs and markets software, terminals and systems; and provides personalization, consultancy and training services to offer its customers comprehensive solutions. In 1996, Gemplus Group’s total sales were $440 million. By the end of 1997, the company will have a production capacity of 900 million plastic and smart cards.

Gemplus sells its products worldwide for such applications as public and cellular telephony, financial transactions, loyalty, transportation, education, healthcare, gaming, identity, access control, pay TV, security for computer networks and electronic commerce. Information about Gemplus’ products and services can be found on the World Wide Web at: .

Details

Chase Cuts Prices for NYC

For the second consecutive year, Chase Manhattan Bank is lowering balance requirements for customers to avoid fees on both Better Banking checking and checking with interest accounts.

Chase will also cut the monthly maintenance fee for checking with interest customers who don’t keep required balances, and will introduce a premium rate on Money Market accounts. In September 1996, Chase launched a new deposit product line, which resulted in significant overall cost savings on personal and small business accounts.

“Our ability to offer lower balance requirements, lower fees and higher rates for the second consecutive year reflects merger savings and the significant growth we have seen in our business since our new deposit product line was introduced a year ago,” said Michael Hegarty, Chase Vice Chairman. “Customers have also benefited from new products, such as debit cards and the Self Service Banking account, and new ways of doing business with us, such as Chase Online Banking; we also offer access to the largest network of branches and ATMs in the region.”

Better Banking, Chase’s core relationship product, offers customers two ways to avoid fees; by meeting the combined balance requirement which includes all linked accounts, or by meeting a checking requirement. The bank automatically reviews both types of balances each month to determine which method works in the customer’s favor, a unique benefit. As a result, the majority of Chase’s checking customers don’t pay transaction or monthly maintenance fees.

Balance requirements using all linked accounts to avoid transaction and maintenance fees for both Better Banking checking and checking with interest accounts are being cut by 10%, from $5,000 to $4,500. The monthly maintenance fee for those checking with interest customers who don’t keep required balances is being cut by $1. All reductions are effective October 1.

In November, Chase will introduce a premium rate on its Money Market account. Customers who have linked their account to a Select Banking relationship will automatically earn interest at the premium rate when they maintain a $50,000 combined monthly average balance. Chase has recently introduced several new products and services designed to make life easier for its customers, including:

— Chase Online Banking — over 100,000 individual and small business customers have already signed up for Chase’s free service, which was launched in the second quarter, enabling them to pay bills, check balances and transfer funds.

— Debit Cards — Chase has distributed Chase Banking Cards with a MasterCard debit feature to 1.9 million customers.

— Self Service Banking — This product has proven to be attractive to technology users, providing a lower-cost option for customers who prefer using the telephone, computer or ATMs to conduct their banking.

— Streamlined applications and faster turnaround on small business credit products.

Details

AmEx Internet Investing

American Express Financial Direct today announced several enhancements to its InvestDirect online brokerage offering (), designed to help customers invest via the Internet more easily — for less.

InvestDirect commissions are now $24.95 per equity trade for up to 4,000 shares, with a minimum investment of just $2,000.* Customers can trade equities, plus more than 200 no-load, no-transaction-fee** mutual funds, including the Strategist Funds from American Express plus funds from well- known fund families including Scudder, Dreyfus and American Century(R). Previously, Financial Direct offered two online brokerage account options: a basic InvestDirect account with a base commission of $26.95 per trade, and an InvestDirect/pt (power tools) account with a base commission of $34.95 per trade.

The enhanced InvestDirect offering includes a comprehensive range of research and analysis tools at no extra charge, including unlimited stock quotes, customized e-mail alerts with news and stock prices, company research, S&P MarketScope(TM), Comtex, Zack’s Market Snapshot and Insider Activity reports. Many of these research tools had been available only to Financial Direct customers with an InvestDirect/pt account.

Investors who open an InvestDirect account before December 15, 1997 will receive a complimentary, one-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition (WSJIE), including Barron’s Online and Smart Money Interactive – a $49 value.*** WSJIE provides continually updated news, customized to follow the companies and topics an investor wants. It also allows investors to create a personalized portfolio to track stocks and mutual funds, search a 14-day archive of Wall Street Journal news, and gain access to more than 10,000 company briefing books. Existing InvestDirect customers can take advantage of this offer by making an additional $2,000 deposit into their accounts by December 15, 1997.

“Our customers have told us they want easy-to-use information and tools to help make their investment decisions,” said Karin Stone, vice president, American Express Financial Direct. “With our enhanced InvestDirect account, we are giving our customers what they want by integrating a robust set of research and analysis tools with trading capability — all at one low price.”

“We’re pleased to offer American Express InvestDirect customers The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition package, which includes Barron’s Online and Smart Money Interactive to support their business and investment decisions,” said Thomas Baker, business director for the Interactive Journal. “Our reporting of global news is updated continuously, 24-hours a day to provide business people with a trusted information resource that offers depth and flexibility.”

In addition, InvestDirect customers are automatically enrolled in Investment Rewards, the most comprehensive rewards program in the investment business. Customers earn one point for every $10 invested. A minimum account balance of just $5,000 is needed to begin earning points. Points may be redeemed for airline travel, hotel accommodations, car rentals, golf instruction and retail purchases.****

Free, unlimited customer support from licensed financial consultants is available 24-hours a day via e-mail, or by telephone at 1-800-658-4677, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – midnight, and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST.

For a self-guided tour of the new enhanced InvestDirect, visit .

American Express (NYSE: AXP) provides consumers with two financial services options in the U.S. – American Express Financial Direct and American Express Financial Advisors (http://www.americanexpress.com/advisors). Financial Direct, a unit of Financial Advisors, offers a range of carefully selected, high-quality, competitively positioned financial products directly to consumers. With more than $162 billion in owned or managed assets, American Express Financial Advisors provides in-depth advice and financial planning services through a field force of more than 8,400 financial advisors.

About The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Introduced in April 1996, The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition features continuously updated coverage of the full spectrum of business news both in the U.S. and around the world, prepared by a dedicated editorial staff, supported by the global resources of the Wall Street Journal. Subscribers have access to more than 10,000 in-depth background reports on companies, an archive of news articles, and personal news and stock portfolios. The Interactive Journal has attracted more than 100,000 paid subscribers. The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition is published by Dow Jones Interactive Publishing, the electronic publishing arm of Dow Jones & Company (NYSE: DJ).

* — The commission on equity trades over 4,000 shares is $24.95 plus 2 cents per share for the entire order.

** — A transaction fee will be charged on each redemption of mutual funds held for 90 days or less.

*** — A minimum $2,000 deposit is required to open an InvestDirect account. Applications must be received by December 15, 1997 in order to receive a free subscription. Account must maintain a $1,000 average daily balance or the subscription is subject to cancellation.

**** — 50,000 point limit per account per year. Assets must remain in the account for 90 days. Certain products and ownerships are not eligible for points. Other terms and conditions apply.

American Express Financial Direct makes investments available through American Express Service Corporation, member NASD and SIPC. For more complete information on products, including fees and expenses, consumers may obtain prospectuses at or 1-800-AXP-8800. Consumers should read prospectuses before investing. American Express Financial Advisors makes investments available through American Express Financial Advisors Inc.

Details