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« December 5, 2004 - December 11, 2004 | Main | December 19, 2004 - December 25, 2004 »

December 17, 2004

Bankrate Studies Gift Cards

Bankrate.com has released the results of a study of gift cards available from the 20 largest US retailers as well as gift cards offered by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

Americans have embraced gift cards with a big materialistic hug. The National Retail Federation reports that three-fourths of us will buy at least one gift card this holiday season, spending a total of $17.34 billion, up $100 million from last year. The average person will buy three cards, most often for relatives outside their immediate family, spending a total of just over $100.

Equifax, Fair Isaac Introduce Credit Score Monitoring Service

Equifax and Fair Isaac have announced Score Watch, a consumer FICO credit score monitoring service.

Score Watch continuously monitors subscribers' Equifax credit file for changes that can affect their FICO scores. Once a change is detected, Score Watch alerts subscribers via email or wireless text message, advising them to visit a secured web site for a detailed explanation of the change in credit status. If the subscriber's credit score changes by a significant amount due to changes in their credit file, the Score Watch alert will also include their up-to-date score.

Consumers will have to pay $7.95 per month to monitor their FICO scores using Score Watch. Providian recently started making consumer FICO scores available online to its cardholders for free.

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Taco Bell to Accept Credit and Debit Cards

Taco Bell has announced that it will accept credit and debit cards at all of its company-owned restaurants and many of its franchise locations.

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Global Payments Launches IP Suite

Global Payments has announced @dvantage, an Internet connectivity product suite for merchants.

Chairman, President and CEO of Global Payments, Paul R. Garcia, said, "Global Payments is committed to the expansion of connectivity options that make it fast, secure and convenient for merchants of all sizes and types to process Internet transactions. Whether the focus is on security or transaction speed, Global Payments has a solution set that meets both simple and complex requirements."

December 16, 2004

Barclays Deploys Anti-Skimming Devices

The Scotsman reports on anti-skimming devices being deployed by Barclays Bank to protect its ATMs.

First Horizon, SunTrust Begin Electronic Check Clearing

Viewpointe has announced that First Horizon and SunTrust have begun electronic check clearing through ViewPointe's ImageShare image exchange capability.

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Online Dangers Likely to Continue to Grow

The Washington Post reports on the status of online risks -- saying they're likely to continue to grow in 2005.

"I liken the problem of online crime to the '20s and '30s, when law enforcement was still trying to figure out who all the gangsters were," said Marcus Sachs, a former White House cyber-security adviser who now directs the SANS Internet Storm Center, which monitors hacker trends.

Cell Phone-based Micropayments

Shannon Henry reports in the Washington Post on a recent roundtable discussion titled "What's Next in Wireless?"

The panelists agreed that one of the most interesting and potentially lucrative wireless niches will be "micropayments," finding ways to use a cell phone to pay small amounts, such as $1 or $2, for a new ring tone or a game. "That's a gigantic opportunity," said Mark Ein, founder of District-based venture capital firm Venturehouse Group.

December 15, 2004

Walgreens to Stop Accepting American Express Cards

Walgreens, the country's largest drug store chain, has announced it will stop accepting American Express cards because Amex's service fees are higher than other cards.

Although American Express hasn't raised its rates since Walgreens began accepting the card chainwide in 1996, Walgreens is not seeing significantly larger purchases from American Express cardholders that might offset the high fees.

December 14, 2004

FDIC Releases Study on Unauthorized Access to Financial Institution Accounts

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today released the results of a study titled Putting an End to Account-Hijacking Identity Theft (PDF). Among the study's recommendations, the first was that financial institutions should upgrade existing password-based single-factor customer authentication systems to two-factor authentication.

Banking Trends in 2005

Alenka Grealish of Celent Communicatins writes in Bank Systems & Technology on banking trends for 2005.

Citibank iPod: Better Than Toasters!

img_ipod-small.jpg[Note: This offer has expired. This post is here as an historical archive.]

Citibank has begun offering free Apple iPod Mini's to new EZ Checking account customers.

Consumers must open the account online, fund it with $2,500 and pay 2 bills online each month for 12 consecutive calendar months -- a few of the key terms among the offer's fine print.

Citi/Amex: More Bad News for Merchants? For MasterCard?

With American Express announcing its second US bank partner deal with Citibank yesterday, the implications for card-accepting merchants of any shift in spending away from Visa and MasterCard branded cards to Amex cards are coming into focus.

One industry analyst estimates that for every $100 in cardholder purchase activity that moves to Amex-branded cards, merchants will pay $0.50 in higher card acceptance fees due to the higher interchange/merchant discount fees that American Express charges.

Of course, it's the financial participation in that higher interchange fee income that's the primary (only?) motivator for MBNA and Citi to do these alliance deals with Amex. In combination, Citi and MBNA issue cards responsible for about 25 percent of credit card spending in the US.

2005 could also shape up to be a tough year for MasterCard in terms of potential impact to its US payment volume. Two of its largest issuers have announced Amex alliances. One (MBNA) is in the midst of an aggressive roll-out of Amex-branded cards. Another top issuer, JP Morgan Chase, is reportedly still considering its brand decision -- between Visa and MasterCard (or, perhaps, also Amex?).

Commerce Bank to Use RSA SecurID for Authentication

RSA Security has announced that Commerce Bank will be using RSA's SecurID token for two-factor authentication of more than 4,000 employees and corporate banking customers.

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December 13, 2004

Plastic Fantastic?

Business Week looks at the Citibank / American Express deal.

Now that two of the biggest card-issuers are on board with American Express, it puts competitive pressure on other banks to sign on.

Next convert? Observers are putting their money on J.P. Morgan Chase, which has 92 million U.S. cardholders that American Express would like the opportunity to court.

American Express Announces Card Issuing Alliance with Citibank

Update: Jennifer Kingson reports on the Amex/Citi card issuing alliance in Tuesday's New York Times.

American Express this afternoon announced its second major US bank card issuing alliance with Citibank.

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OCC Provides Holiday Tips re: Gift Cards

Last week the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency published a list of consumer tips regarding gift cards (PDF).

Remember that a gift card is like a loan: you are giving money to the company that holds the value of the card until you use it, and they are promising to give that money back when you ask for it. Make sure you know who is standing behind that promise, and remember that you are putting your trust in that company (and its financial stability).

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JP Morgan to Provide Xign's Order-to-Pay Service for MetLife

JP Morgan Treasury Services has announced it has been selected by MetLife to provide its Order-to-Pay Service to streamline its procure-to-pay cycle.

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Wachovia Introduces Remote Desktop Capture of Paper Checks

Wachovia has announced the introduction of a new receivables service, Remote Desktop Capture, that enables the remote capture and transmission of paper checks for deposit.

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Credit Card King Doesn't Revolve

Steve Chawkins reports in the Los Angeles Times on Walter Cavanagh, the king of credit cards with 1,496 active cards.

At heart, the 61-year-old retired financial planner is a one-card guy. And, unlike the average American household, which carries more than $9,000 in credit card debt at any time, Cavanagh pays off his card (whose lender he would not disclose) in full each and every month.

Some Online Ecommerce Sites Falter

Bob Tedeschi reports in the New York Times on some difficulties that online ecommerce sites have experienced this holiday shopping season.

December 12, 2004

MasterCard Reports 7.8% Growth for Third Holiday Shopping Weekend

MasterCard reported this morning that transactions processed over its Banknet global telecommunications network increased 7.8 percent year over year for the third weekend of the holiday shopping season as measured through Saturday evening.

MasterCard processed 67.7 million authorizations over its network this year in the third holiday shopping weekend, as compared to 62.8 million for the same period in 2003. MasterCard has processed 483.1 million transactions through December 11 this year, as compared to 439.9 million at this same time in 2003, a 9.8% cumulative growth in transactions for the season overall. 2004 has two more shopping days in the holiday season than in 2003.

Mobile Payments 2004

Simon Lelieveldt blogs from a conference in Amsterdam on mobile payments.

Simpay will go live in second quarter of 2005; merchants accepting simpay will be faced with 30% fee to be paid as a merchant service charge.

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