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« January 2, 2005 - January 8, 2005 | Main | January 16, 2005 - January 22, 2005 »

January 15, 2005

Walgreens Decides to Continue to Accept American Express

Bloomberg News reports that Walgreens said Friday that it will continue accepting American Express cards, reversing a decision it announced last month.

Walgreen was too high-profile of a merchant for American Express to lose," said David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, a trade journal for credit card executives. "They probably lowered the fee Walgreen pays to accept American Express transactions and maybe agreed to some other cross-promotional deal."

January 14, 2005

OCC and Credit Card Consumer Disclosures

Acting Comptroller of the Currency Julie L. Williams gave a speech (PDF) this week that spoke to credit card consumer disclosures.

I could make a similar point about credit card disclosures. This industry is highly competitive and card issuers are always soliciting for new customers.

But whether you are opening a brand new account, or considering a balance transfer from an existing account, how easy is it for you to compare important terms beyond the APR? Can you shop for a card based on an issuer’s ability to raise your rates or change other fees and terms?

Financial DNA Emerging Payments 2005 Conference

San Francisco-based research firm Financial DNA has announced its Emerging Payments 2005 conference to be held on May 12 in San Francisco.

January 13, 2005

Giving Up the Internet

Joseph Menn reports in the Los Angeles Times about frustrations that many users have with trying to use the Internet.

Stephen Seemayer had the first Pong video game system on his block. A decade later, the Echo Park artist was the first of his neighbors to get a personal computer. And in 1996, he was so inspired by the World Wide Web that he created a series of small paintings for viewing over the Internet.

Now the 50-year-old Seemayer is once again on the cutting edge: Sick of spam clogging his inbox and spyware and viruses crashing his system, Seemayer yanked out his high-speed connection.

"I'm not going to pay for something that I can't use," he said.

Payment Cards Center Updates Conferences

The Payments Cards Center of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank has posted updated information on two recent conferences held by the Center: Forum on Validation of Consumer Credit-Risk Models and Assessing the Impact of Electronic Benefits Transfer.

Private Label Merchant Cards

The Tower Group has announced the release of a new study of private label merchant card programs.

For years, private label credit card portfolios were the tightly guarded assets of U.S. retailers and oil companies. But recent shifts in the consumer credit landscape are driving even the largest in-house issuers of private label credit cards to either outsource their card businesses or sell them outright. Fueling this move are factors including competition from general-purpose credit cards, an increase in the volume of bad loans (or chargeoffs) and margin pressures.

China's Consumers Flock to Easier Credit

Kathleen McLaughlin reports in the Christian Science Monitor on the expansion of consumer credit options by the banks in China.

Credit cards are fast gaining acceptance, accounting for 10 percent of all transactions in 2003, and usage, with 1 million Chinese cardholders, and the numbers growing every month, according to the central bank.

Merger of Pulse EFT and Discover Closes

Discover Financial Services and the Pulse EFT Association have announced the completion of their merger following approval by Pulse's financial institution members.

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POS Benchmarking Survey

LakeWest Group has released the results of its sixth annual Point-of-Sale Benchmarking Survey of top 100 specialty retailers.

This year respondents identified their top priorities as increased customer flow-through, better customer information gathering, hardware replacement, improved store labor management, and seamless channel integration.

"Customer service continues to be the key priority for retailers as they focus on gaining a better understanding of their customer, improving inventory management, and more effectively managing store personnel," said Robert Antall, CEO of LakeWest Group. "As retailers look to differentiate their offering, they are addressing areas such as channel integration, customer purchasing patterns across channels, and providing special order options to the customer."

January 12, 2005

Chief Risk Officers

A recent Global Risk Management survey by Deloitte reports that four out of five major financial firms now have a chief risk officer.

Global financial services institutions are facing growing exposure to risk from a variety of factors, including mega-mergers, off-shoring, outsourcing, greater regulation, and the need to manage an increased volume of lending.

JPay

Vance McCarthy writes in Integration Developer News about JPay, a new set of open application program interfaces intended to eash the cost, time and complexity for supporting electronic payments.

The JPay API will support payments in an open, Web-like environment, and specifically allow Java applications (typically Web applications or Java enabled content servers) to utilize a third-party payment service. The proposal is being back by some of the leading names in transaction-driven Java, including Oracle, IBM, Sun, HP and Siemens.

More information about JPay is available on the JPay home page.

Verbal Signatures

Will Sturgeon reports from the UK for Silicon.com on the use of "verbal signatures" for two-way authentication between banks and their customers.

A number of banking customers have become concerned about the apparently random methods used by some banks to contact them, with unsolicited calls singled out as a source of confusion in these days of phishing, where criminals, typically posing as banks attempt to trick users into divulging details such as passwords and log-ins.

eFunds to Acquire ClearCommerce

eFunds has announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire ClearCommerce, a privately held provider of fraud prevention and payment processing solutions for card not present transactions, for an initial purchase price of $19.4 million.

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PayPal Confident re: Regulatory Challenges

Julie Hauserman reports in AuctionBytes.com on PayPal's confidence that it can meet various regulatory challenges.

PayPal spokeswoman Sara Bettencourt says the company doesn't foresee problems. "We don't actually see compliance with regulations as a challenge," Bettencourt said. "We have a large, dedicated team within the company that focuses on this."

Identity Theft Sentencing

Monty Phan reports in Newsday on the sentencing of Philip Cummings to 14 years in prison after he admitted to contributing to the largest case of identity theft in U.S. history.

First Data Acquires Credit Card Processing Unit from FinecoBank

First Data Corp. announced this morning that it has completed the acquisition of the credit card processing unit of FinecoBank S.p.A.

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Bill Paying is Easier - So is Fraud

David Lazarus writes in the San Francisco Chronicle about some of the risks associated with electronic payments.

"All this technology has been pushed aggressively by banks but they haven't put in sufficient safeguards for consumers," said Ken McEldowney, executive director of Consumer Action, a San Francisco advocacy group. "Consumers have to take some personal responsibility for their accounts," he said. "But the burden is on banks to fix the problem."

Massachusetts Gift Card Litigation

Bruce Mohl reports in the Boston Globe on litigation brought by the Massachusetts state attorney general against mall operator Simon Property Group charging that the terms of Simon's gift card program violates state law.

Both the dormancy fee and the one-year expiration date would appear to violate the Massachusetts gift card statute, which requires gift cards to be redeemable at full face value for at least seven years.

Building a Credit Score

Liz Pulliam Weston writes for MSN Money on building a credit score.

January 11, 2005

Salary Advance Loans

Newswise reports on a new loan program launched by some credit unions called Salary Advance Loans.

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Bank One Launches Overnight Check

Can you believe paper being faster than electronic payments? This morning Bank One announced a new Overnight Check service that is available to its checking account customers through its online banking website BankOne.com.

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Moneris Solutions, InfoTouch and Merchant Partners Team to Deliver Integrated Touch Screen POS System

Moneris Solutions, InfoTouch and Merchant Partners have announced they are teaming to integrate payment processing with touch screen technology and help the retail industry transition to a touch screen point-of-sale (POS) infrastructure.

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Verifone Holdings Files S-1

Verifone Holdings has filed an S-1 registration statement with the SEC. According to the financials included in the S-1, the company reported revenues of about $390 million for the year ending October 2004 and $0.6 million in net income.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

In his new article "Looking Back, Looking Ahead" (PDF), Tom Brown of Second Curve Capital takes a look back at financial services industry highlights from 2004 and ahead on what to expect in 2005.

Living Debt Free

Scott Reeves writes for Forbes.com on American consumer debt and strategies to get out of it.

The typical U.S. household carries $9,200 in credit card debt. The U.S. Federal Reserve reports that debt levels of U.S. households fell $8.7 billion in November after a sharp drop in charge-card and credit activity.

High Tech Answers to ID Theft

Liz Pulliam Weston reports for MSN Money on technologies to better secure electronic payments.

Personally, I want financial institutions and retailers to do more to make sure the person withdrawing money and charging purchases is actually me. I’m not going to let them implant a chip or scan my retinas (another “biometric” authentication process that gives most people the willies), but I wouldn’t mind carrying a key fob that would make my accounts more secure.

UK Store Card Rates Probed

Bloomberg reports on the UK's Competition Commission's inquiry into store card rates.

The commission is investigating whether companies such as GE Consumer Finance and HSBC Holdings Plc are stifling competition in Britain's 4.8 billion-pound market ($9 billion) for store cards, allowing them to charge interest rates as much as 10 percentage points higher than for ordinary credit cards.

Flying Checks

P.J. Huffstutter writes in the Los Angeles Times about the "freight dogs" that fly paper checks around the country at night -- and the impact that Check 21 is likely to have on them.

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January 10, 2005

Stored Value Systems Launches Gift Card Program for Arby's

Stored Value Systems has announced that it has launched a gift card program for Arby's.

Cyota Releases Online Fraud Survey

Cyota has released the results of it second annual Financial Institution Online Fraud Survey conducted during November 2004.

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