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« July 6, 2003 - July 12, 2003 | Main | July 20, 2003 - July 26, 2003 »

July 16, 2003

Visa USA and SafeCHECK to combine check conversion services

Visa USA and SafeCHECK announced this morning that they've agreed to combine their check electronification efforts.
The combined service, to be run by Visa, will form a bank-owned, integrated electronic check processing solution that can significantly reduce the billions of dollars of paper check handling costs incurred by merchants and financial institutions annually.
The press release also cites NACHA statistics reporting that merchant adoption of check conversion at POS is growing at a rate of six per cent each month. Yesterday, an article in Bank Systems and Technology by Celent analyst Gwenn Bezard reviewed the current state of check conversion at the point of sale in the US.
Although there are signs that the complex alchemy of turning a check into an electronic payment will become mainstream at the lockbox, it is unlikely to happen in the next two to three years at the point-of-sale. This should encourage the industry to think beyond the "conversion" box, and consider other alternatives, such as financial incentives and disincentives.

eWeek: MasterCard I/T profiles

eWeek has two articles this week profiling MasterCard's information systems technology. The first article by Executive Editor Stan Gibson comments on the IT investments made by MasterCard. The second article, also by Gibson, is an interview with Jerry McElhatton, MasterCard's president of global technology, and Robert Reeg, senior Vice president of systems development. It includes an interesting sidebar listing many of MasterCard's IT-related assets.

American Express expands ExpressPay

American Express announced this morning that it is expanding its ExpressPay pilot in the Phoenix area.
ExpressPay is an easy-to-use alternative to cash for making purchases at merchants where speed and convenience are important - such as quick serve restaurants, supermarkets, drug stores, gas stations, and corporate cafeterias. Users simply hold the ExpressPay key fob next to a companion reader at checkout to make purchases. Payment is authorized in seconds and no signature is required. ExpressPay links directly to an existing credit, charge or debit card to fund the purchase.
ExpressPay operates in two different modes. You can directly link it to an American Express card account and each payment will be posted to that account. Alternatively, you can load value into your ExpressPay account from an American Express, MasterCard, Visa or Discover Card and each payment will be deducted from the prepaid account balance. American Express has a website for ExpressPay customer service. A comprehensive FAQ is also available.

July 15, 2003

Citigroup to acquire Sears Credit Card Business

Citigroup announced this afternoon that it is the successful bidder for the credit card business of Sears. This is a big deal -- moving Citigroup to 20% market share in credit cards and the clear leader in private label cards.
„This acquisition provides us with an opportunity to take a leadership position in the private label segment and solidify our current bankcard leadership position,‰ said Sanford I. Weill, Citigroup chairman and chief executive officer. „This relationship with Sears gives us unique access to a large distribution channel and customer base. We look forward to growing the value and profitability of this portfolio by applying our expertise. We have demonstrated our capability at integrating new businesses over the last few years and to add to our bottom line. This acquisition should be no different.‰ „This transaction creates significant growth opportunities for Citigroup in this segment of our business,‰ said Robert B. Willumstad, president of Citigroup and chairman and chief executive officer of Citigroup‚s Global Consumer Group. „Sears is a unique franchise as 60 percent of U.S. households are Sears customers, including a significant Hispanic customer base -- a key focus of our consumer business marketing efforts. Through over 2,700 Sears outlets across the U.S., we will have access to low cost, high volume customer acquisition points that currently add over four million credit card customers annually.‰
Citigroup has provided a presentation with more background on the acquisition.

July 14, 2003

Good Guys likes Verified by Visa reports on Good Guys' positive experience with Verified by Visa. started participating in Visa U.S.A.`s Verified by Visa system about eight months ago, but saw little participation by shoppers for the first several months, Parker says. But participation began increasing two months ago, and now 35-40% of orders are processed with the Verified by Visa system. Although he`s unable to explain the recent rise in customer participation, he notes that customer surveys and direct e-mail feedback have all pointed to positive customer experiences. operates as a separate entity from the Good Guys Inc. chain of retail stores. "I`ve never had any negative feedback," Parker says. "Customers say they feel safer shopping with us knowing their card is protected. It makes their lives easier and it makes our lives easier."


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