In a letter to the Federal Reserve Board, four consumer groups urged the Fed to regulate and curb gift card fees and address terms and conditions that undermine the value of gift cards. The Fed is reviewing a set of proposed gift card regulations as part of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (Credit CARD Act). New regulations are scheduled to go into effect Feb. 22, 2010. The letter was penned by Consumers Union, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumer Law Center and can be viewed online at www.consumersunion.org/pdf/gift-card-comments1209.pdf. The consumer groups advised the Fed to cap the amount issuers can charge for inactivity, limit fees on low-value cards, limit when the inactivity fees can be charged, provide protection from early expiration dates on gift cards, and provide loss prevention for lost or stolen cards.
Following an agreement between VendTek Systems Inc., Peoples Card Services (an affiliate of Peoples Trust Co.) and 3V Transaction Services Ltd., VendTek launched the 3V Virtual Visa card in Canada, which VendTek claims is the first virtual, Visa Inc.-branded prepaid card to be issued in Canada. Peoples Card Services will act as the card issuer; VendTek will control marketing and distribution.
7-Eleven Inc. reported that its sales of prepaid game cards in 2009 doubled over the past year. In response to that demand, 7-Eleven doubled the number of titles it carries. Using the game cards, gamers can spruce up avatars (virtual personae in online games) or purchase virtual weapons or enhanced abilities.
E-Gift Cards, Blackhawk Network's virtual gift card program, is now available at GiftCardMall.com. The cards can be purchased online and delivered via e-mail; they can also be printed for use at brick-and-mortar retailers.
Conestoga Bank launched a patent-pending gift card solution that allocates unused balances on cards to charities. Richard A. Elko, Conestoga Bank President, said fees can deplete balances on gift cards. "Our creative team decided to take this behavior and transform it into positive action that would benefit the community," he added.
MoneyGram International arranged to pay to its debt holders $40 million on its tranche B term loan under the senior secured credit facility, which brings the total the company has paid on its outstanding debt obligation in 2009 to $187 million.
Open Network Entertainment Inc. unveiled the ONE SafeCard, an age-specific prepaid card for online gamers and social network users. "The ONE SafeCard not only ensures that children are provided access to age-appropriate gaming sites, but also enables parents to be able to control where and when their children make in-game purchases," said Pete Grubb, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for ONE.
The Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card won the Best International Prepaid Card Oscard award in Paris. The card, available at any Commonwealth Bank branch in Australia, can be used wherever MasterCard Worldwide-branded cards are accepted.
The Western Union Co. launched transactional Web sites in Belgium and Portugal. "Our international sites posted 40 percent transaction growth in the third quarter of 2009," said Gail Galuppo, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Western Union.
Trustcash Holdings Inc. is developing a white-label option for its e-commerce checkout system. The new solution, which will be offered for a fee, will allow merchants to customize elements such as headers, footers, cascading style sheets and buttons with logos.
Univision Communications Inc., a U.S.-based, Spanish-language media company, launched the Univision MasterCard Gift Card. Cardholders can use it wherever Debit MasterCard is accepted.
The card, issued by Bancorp Bank, can be purchased at Univision's Web site in $20 to $500 denominations. The purchaser is given four card designs to choose from.
VoiceCash Group's subsidiary, VoiceCash Bank Ltd., received a European banking license. The new bank is registered in Malta. "For us, this is a logical and important step forward, toward providing worldwide access to mobile banking," said VoiceCash Group Chief Executive Officer Michael Kramer.
Wildcard Network Inc. rolled out a gift card application for Apple Inc.'s iPhone. The free application, available in the online iTunes Store, allows users to buy, store, give and use gift cards on touch-screen iPhones.
7-Eleven Inc. inked a seven-year extension with Heartland Payment Systems Inc. "Over the past two years, 7-Eleven has realized the benefits of Heartland's efficient, state-of-the-art card processing capabilities - and importantly, its responsive service," said David Seltzer, 7-Eleven's Vice President and Treasurer.
Chicago-based Arroweye Solutions Inc. employed Prime Factor Inc.'s Bank Card Security System to help it gain membership in the Visa Approved Card Vendor Program. The implementation assisted the company's project in launching faster and at 75 percent of anticipated cost.
Prepaid card processor eCommLink Inc. and CPNI Inc. formed a strategic partnership to extend the card programs of eCommLink's existing program manager and financial institution customers to include mobile capabilities. Using CPNI's Phone Authorized Transfer technology, the cardholders of eCommLink's clients can manage their cards, check balances, view transaction histories and perform person-to-person money transfers.
Salt Lake City-based Galileo Processing Inc. and PreCash Inc., a cash-based alternative payment provider, agreed to a five-year extension of their partnership. Galileo processes for PreCash reloadable prepaid cards.
InComm and NetSpend Corp. entered into a distribution agreement in which many of InComm's retail partner locations will be able to sell and reload NetSpend general-purpose, reloadable debit cards. In return, InComm will gain access to NetSpend's 93,000 reload network locations.
MoneyGram formed an alliance with Alpha Bank Srbija A.D. to add MoneyGram's money transfer services to 165 Alpha Bank locations in Serbia. Serbians received an estimated $5.5 billion in remittances in 2008, according to the World Bank.
Additionally, MoneyGram partnered with Smart Communications Inc., a wireless services provider in the Philippines, which will enable Smart Money account holders in the Philippines to receive money transfers on mobile phones.
NetSpend employed Vesta Corp.'s Web reload service for its prepaid products geared toward underbanked consumers. With the new online service, NetSpend customers can reload prepaid cards from bank-issued debit cards.
Prepay Nation joined with Caribbean mobile operator Digicel Group to offer Prepay Nation's international top up program to Prepay Nation's global partners.
To reload Prepay Nation customers' accounts, retailers enter the amount paid and the Digicel mobile number into the Prepay Nation portal and the amount is instantly credited to the prepaid card account.
To manage e-mail marketing for its Cash Passport product, Travelex chose Communicator Corp.'s new version of the Communicator Enterprise Email Management platform, which features an integrated relational data structure.
Citing personal reasons, Jeffrey R. Woods, Money Gram's Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, resigned from his position. However, Woods will reportedly be available to MoneyGram on an as-needed basis.
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