Connecticut Better Business Bureau President Paulette Hotton Scarpetti said gift card recipients should pay special attention to the writing on their cards.
"Use of these prepaid bankcards may involve substantial fees and limitations, and they vary, so we recommend consumers read the fine print and ask lots of questions about the cards' restrictions," Scarpetti said.
The BBB recently researched one bank-issued card and discovered more than 27 fees attached to it. "Because there is no way of telling in advance whether a retailer will go out of business, your BBB advises that you think before giving gift cards," Scarpetti said. "If you have a gift card, use it as soon as possible. You never know how long its issuer will be in business."
Chase Paymentech Solutions LLC's 2008 Cyber Holiday Pulse Index, an annual measurement of holiday online shopping activity, indicated in mid-December 2008 that holiday season sales were up over 2007 by 13 percent. Transaction count increased 26 percent.
The discrepancy between the two numbers is the result of the lower average amount spent on an individual transaction, which is down 13 percent from 2007.
"Average order values are down, even though the volume of transactions is up," said Sucharita Mulpuru, Principal Analyst for Forrester Research Inc.
"And while there has been plenty of ho-hum news, there are some reasons for hope." To see daily updates to the Pulse Index, visit http://pulse.chasepaymentech.com
A survey commissioned by mobile payment provider Upaid Systems found that Latin Americans living in the United States are anxious to use mobile money transfer services. The majority of Latin Americans using mobile phones to transfer money are men ages 25 to 34.
The most popular countries this group sent money to are Mexico (41 percent), Puerto Rico (12 percent) and the Dominican Republic (6 percent).
Prepaid companies get holiday spirit
In December 2008, ACE Cash Express Inc. and NetSpend Corp. presented five $100 March of Dimes reloadable prepaid cards to families represented by a Dallas-based nonprofit organization. The families recently completed Comenzando Bien, a specialized training program on outreach and education for prenatal care.
Payment systems software manufacturer ACI World-wide Inc. sold its Proactive Risk Manager, which delivers comprehensive fraud and anti-money-laundering monitoring and detection, to financial services company Indue Sales and Services Inc. Proactive Risk Manager will reportedly enable Indue to cost-effectively reduce fraud by filtering transactions to look for fraud.
Partnerships with biometric identification authenticator and check processor BioPay Paycheck Secure are indented to provide retailers with new product offerings, including walk-in bill payment and prepaid debit services, to better meet the needs of underbanked consumers.
Retailers will be able to load funds from cashed checks directly to prepaid cards, which can then be used at ATMs, online or in brick-and-mortar locations.
Coffee Republic PLC introduced a new payment and loyalty contactless smart card for its customers using the electronic money service sQuid eMoney. The card is Coffee Republic-branded; customers register the card online, view transactions and top up their "payments purse."
Digital security company Gemalto NV will provide Banco Santander with Brazil's first multifunctional smart card as part of the national University Identity Theft Card Program.
The card combines Europay, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc. payment and contactless access control on an identification card for use by students, teachers and university staff throughout the country.
In Hypercom Corp.'s second trial program at the Melbourne, Australia, Docklands waterfront development, the POS terminal maker is providing residents with contactless payment devices. The program allows consumers to make purchases by waving their near field communication-enabled mobile phones over contactless readers integrated with Hypercom's Optimum T4200 family of devices.
"Customers immediately embrace the idea of using their cell phones like a payment card," said T.K. Cheung, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific, Hypercom. "It's fast, there is virtually no learning curve, and our high security products give complete confidence in the payment process."
MiCash Inc., a prepaid marketer and money service business, introduced a prepaid debit card that offers cardholders the ability to make card-to-card or card-to-cash worldwide money transfers. MiCash provides general purpose and prepaid debit card services, such as payroll cards and reloadable cards, with unique remittance capabilities.
Prepaid debit card provider NetSpend Corp. launched a reloadable prepaid card that eliminates overdraft fees and interest rates by preventing consumers from spending more than the amount loaded on cards. Because cardholders cannot overspend with the MetaBank- and Inter National Bank-issued cards, consumers have more control over their money.
Trade association Prepaid International Forum disclosed that G-T-P Prepaid Services Co. Ltd. and White Eagle Europ PLC were the first member organizations granted PIF accreditation. The accreditation scheme introduced by PIF in July 2008 creates an international standard for prepaid commerce designed to ensure best practices in prepaid products, enhance consumer confidence and reduce reputational risk.
The accreditation process follows PIF's Best Practice Guidelines and Issuer Code of Conduct. "Once again, PIF and its members show leadership in prepaid," said Chris Reddish, Chairman of the PIF.
Stored-value card manufacturer and processor Trans Card Canada Ltd. teamed with University National Bank in St. Paul, Minn., to process prepaid transactions for the bank. "Working with TransCard will help us further serve the underbanked and unbanked," said Nichol Beckstrand, Chief Operations Officer with UNB's parent company, Sunrise Community Banks.
International mobile communications provider Voda-fone Group PLC partnered with The Western Union Co. to pilot a cross-border mobile money transfer service between the United Kingdom and Kenya. The service reportedly enables customers to quickly send remittances from select locations directly to Safaricom mobile subscribers in Kenya.
NYCE Payments Network LLC reported Harris Bank N.A. renewed its NYCE network participation and named NYCE its primary provider of PIN debit and ATM card access. Harris has 276 branches in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Online payment provider Neovia Financial PLC agreed to buy the European prepaid services division of IDT Corp. in a cash deal worth approximately 10 million pounds.
John Hancock joined processor FNDS3000 Corp. as its new Chief Executive Officer and Director. Additionally, John Watson was appointed the organization's new Executive Vice President. Hancock replaces Michael Dodak, who will remain Chairman of the Board.
Stanley Loh was appointed to financial services investment group All Asia Licensing Inc.'s board of advisors. Loh has several years' background in software and technology development as well as prepaid and loyalty electronic payment processing.
Processor i2c Inc. hired James Riggsbee as its new Site Leader, Panama Contact Center. Riggsbee's sales and management experience include stints with Chase Paymentech Solutions LLC, Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., Discover Financial Services and Western Union.
Stored Value Solutions Inc., a gift and prepaid card solutions company, named Ralph Rolen as its new Executive Vice President and General Manager. Rolen will lead strategic direction, operations, product development and revenue initiatives. Rolen joins SVS from payment processor Total Merchant Services Inc.
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