• Customers redeeming the gift cards they received at Christmas
2006 are bolstering retail sales, says the National Retail
Federation (NRF)…

• First Data’s consolidated revenues rose by 14 percent
year-on-year to $1.9 billion in the quarter ending 31 December
2006. ..

• Independent US retailers are being offered POS payments based
on Californian biometric payments firm Pay By Touch’s fingerprint
readers…

• The US Congress is to hold a series of hearings on the credit
card industry, Christopher Dodd, chairman of the US Senate
Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said at the
inaugural session on 25 January. Topics that Senator Dodd wants to
address include the role played by credit cards in the exponential
rise in consumer debt, high interest charges, direct mail credit
card solicitations and interchange fees.

• A Federal Reserve survey of senior bank loan officers at 60 large
domestic banks and 24 US branches of foreign banks reveals that 35
percent of domestic US banks expect the quality of credit card and
non-credit card consumer loans to deteriorate in 2007.

• BB&T has launched a Visa Contactless card trial. The bank is
issuing Visa Contactless debit cards to selected customers in
Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. BB&T
says security features offered by the contactless cards include
zero liability for fraud, a three-digit security code, fraud
monitoring and a unique digital watermark that is generated for
each purchase.

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• Canada’s federal government has asked the country’s top five
banks to explain why they charge their customers a fee for using
another bank’s ATMs. In an unrelated move, the federal opposition
party is calling for Canadian banks to abolish these so-called
‘convenience’ fees. Canada’s banks charge around C$420 million
($355 million) a year in ATM fees, the opposition party
estimates.

• Customers redeeming the gift cards they received at Christmas
2006 are bolstering retail sales, says the National Retail
Federation (NRF). In the run-up to Christmas, consumers spent $27.8
billion on gift cards, compared with the $24.8 billion the NRF had
estimated. According to an NRF survey, consumers spent an average
of $164.81 on gift cards during the Christmas season, up from the
$146.20 they had been expected to spend. Retailers are benefiting
from the 50.9 percent of customers who spend more than the value of
their card, says the NRF.

• First Data is expanding in Canada via its subsidiary Tasq
Technology. Rocklin, California-based Tasq supplies POS terminal
equipment and services to merchant acquirers and independent sales
organisations in the US. To expand into Canada, Tasq will use
another First Data subsidiary, Solika Solutions, as a base. Solika
provides inventory management products for the Canadian POS
industry. Its move into Canada marks the first time that Tasq will
be operating outside the US, says First Data.

• First Data’s consolidated revenues rose by 14 percent
year-on-year to $1.9 billion in the quarter ending 31 December
2006. Income from continuing operations for the quarter was $240
million. For the full year, consolidated revenue was up 8 percent
to $7.1 billion, while income from continuing operations totalled
$848 million.

• MasterCard used the nationwide telecast of the football match
between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots on 21
January to air its latest PayPass ad. The 30-second ad will also
run on MasterCard’s Priceless.com website until the end of the US
football season. It features Patriots player Vinny Testaverde
paying for food purchases at a stadium concession stand using his
PayPass contactless card. After tapping his card to pay for his own
order, Testaverde receives three extra orders from friends via his
mobile phone. Paying for the extras is easy with the contactless
card, although Testaverde has his hands full with a phone and food,
the ad explains.

• Independent US retailers are being offered POS payments based on
Californian biometric payments firm Pay By Touch’s fingerprint
readers. Texas-based StoreNext Retail Technologies has signed a
deal with Pay By Touch to market and distribute the readers to its
customers. StoreNext provides technology and services to
independent grocers and regional chains. Pay By Touch’s readers
replace cards, cheques and cash at the point of sale. When paying,
shoppers touch a biometric sensor and enter a PIN to authenticate
their identity and to debit the card, bank or loyalty account that
they have linked to Pay By Touch.

• Eight data security firms have formed a vendor alliance to
promote payment card security. Named the Payment Card Industry
Security Vendor Alliance, the group says it will educate businesses
on the requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security
Standard. Its members will also provide merchants with security
software that will help them meet PCI requirements. The founding
members of the alliance are ConfigureSoft, Cyber-Ark, Modulo
Security, Proginet, Protegrity USA, Reflex Security, SafeNet and
VeriSign.

• Canada’s Scotiabank has teamed up with Canadian cinema group
Cineplex to launch the Scene entertainment reward programme. The
scheme offers Scotiabank customers a specially branded Scene
Scotiacard debit card plus a Scene loyalty card. Users earn points
each time they use their Scene Scotiacard. They also earn points
when they use their Scene loyalty card at the 28 -participating
Cineplex theatres in Toronto. The points can be redeemed for
purchases at the cinemas. Scotiabank says the rewards programme
will be extended to all 129 Cineplex Entertainment cinemas across
Canada in the spring. It also says it plans to add additional
reward partners to its Scene card scheme.

• Cash Now, a Las Vegas, Nevada-based developer of payday loan and
cheque cashing software, has agreed in principle to acquire US
prepaid debit card issuer Global Visions. It says it wants to use
Global Visions’ expertise to expand internationally in the prepaid
card market.

• Visa has helped introduce contactless cards to six Broadway
theatres in New York that belong to the Nederlander Organization.
Sandbar Concessions, which operates food stand concessions at the
six theatres, has installed wireless card readers that accept both
magnetic stripe and contactless cards. The readers can be taken out
into the foyer or coat check area, allowing theatre-goers to place
their orders away from food stands. Contactless cards have been
accepted at cinemas since 2005, but Visa says this is the first
implementation of contactless card technology at live theatres in
the US.

• Bank of America (BofA) is using chip management technology from
Germany’s Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) for its mobile
phone-based contactless payments trial. BofA has issued near field
communication (NFC)-enabled mobile phones from Nokia to 500 staff
at its headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. MasterCard’s PayPass
contactless payment software is downloaded to each phone over the
air and stored in the phone’s smart card using G&D’s chip
management system. The phones can be used to buy items from vending
machines at BofA headquarters. The trial is also testing PayPass
contactless fobs supplied by French company Oberthur Card
System.