Gift cards continue to gain popularity as a holiday gift giving staple. First Data Corp.'s SpendTrend analysis of gift cards for December 2011 showed that reload dollar volume on open-loop, network-branded gift cards grew 47 percent and transaction volume rose 50.9 percent over December 2010. Reload transaction growth at specialty retail merchants posted a yearly high of 5.2 percent, as consumers reloaded previously-used gift cards to support holiday spending, First Data said.
Smart meter technology firm PayGo Electric entered a pilot program with utility company Georgia Power for prepaid electricity metering in Georgia. PayGo's technology utilizes the mobile telecommunications infrastructure to allow consumers to reload prepaid electricity accounts via smart phones, and therefore eliminate the need for them to travel to retail locations to reload accounts via self-service kiosks.
A recent gun buyback program administered by the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security in conjunction with Canaan Baptist Church and Ezion Fair Baptist Church in Wilmington, Del., was so successful that all $100,000 worth of Visa Inc.-branded, open-loop gift cards allocated for the program were exchanged for guns. More funds were requested from the state to satisfy citizens' demand to exchange guns for gift cards. Over 2,000 weapons were reportedly collected and earmarked for destruction.
The Bancorp Bank, the lead banking subsidiary of The Bancorp Inc., became the issuing bank for The Approved Card, a MasterCard Worldwide-branded prepaid card backed by celebrity financial guru Suze Orman. The bank said it agreed to issue the card because its fee structure aligned with the bank's consumer-friendly values.
Less than a year after BillMyParents Inc. launched the SpendSmart MasterCard, the teen payments facilitator reported over 1 million purchase alerts had been either texted or emailed to parents when their teenage children transacted with the prepaid card.
Pune, India-based ElectraCard Services rolled out electraPrepaid 3.0 under its next generation iTx product series. The iTx series offers a feature-rich, best-in-class product with integrated middleware electraWIRE, electraVIEW for event-based monitoring and electraMAP for faster interface development with Payment Application Data Security Standard compliancy, according to ElectraCard.
Citing an announcement by the U.S. Postal Service that it will close over 487 post offices, InsurCard said mail delivery will slow down in the affected areas, and injured workers waiting for workers compensation checks to arrive will have to wait longer. As a solution to that dilemma, InsurCard touts payments loaded on the InsurCard Visa Prepaid Card, which reportedly ensures timely payments, improved cash flow and reduced insurer check costs.
OpenMotion LLC, a digital and mobile marketing solutions company, demonstrated the ConnectNow Custom Gift Card Kiosk at the National Retail Federation's 101st Annual Convention & EXPO held in New York. The kiosk allows customers to create and dispense personalized, retailer-specific gift cards.
Gift card exchange operator Plastic Jungle Inc. received a strategic investment from Citi Ventures, a unit of global financial services company Citigroup Inc. The undisclosed amount of funding will be used to accelerate Plastic Jungle's growth and innovation, said Plastic Jungle Chief Executive Officer Bruce Bower.
PrepaYd Inc. subsidiary PrepaYd Wireless Inc. opened its first retail Express location in the Westminster Mall located in Westminster, Calif. The Express location – a standalone retail cart rather than a retail storefront – allows for the sale of prepaid phone services, such as account activations and top ups.
Gift card auction YouNeverLose.com went live with its service that allows users to bid on gift cards and potentially win discounts of 90 to 95 percent on gift cards with denominations ranging from $25 to $100. YNL said it leverages aspects of penny auction sites, but that its users never lose money.
The Hungary division of mobile telecommunication company Vodafone Group PLC deployed Sicap mobile money kiosks at Vodafone Hungary Inc.'s Smart Store on Fashion Street in Budapest. Vodafone prepaid phone users can use the kiosks to top up prepaid accounts. Vodafone said the Sicap kiosks will be embedded with near field communication (NFC) technology to allow for contactless transactions.
Prepaid card provider AccountNow Inc. struck a deal with tax preparation software company ezTaxReturn.com to provide tax refunds on prepaid cards. The companies said taxpayers can receive refunds on the cards as few as eight days after filing returns.
A partnership between surcharge-free ATM network operator Allpoint Network and prepaid card processor TxVia Inc. resulted in Allpoint Network access being added to the menu of third-party services offered by TxVia to its program manager (PM) clients. PMs can now offer ATM access to consumers via prepaid cards, the companies said.
Mobile payment technology firm Obopay collaborated with Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-based Warid Telecom (Pvt) Ltd. to launch Warid Pesa, a mobile banking and payment service in Uganda. The companies said Warid Pesa represents a new financial service distribution channel to unbanked Ugandans.
Plastyc Inc., operator of the UPside Visa prepaid card, said its cardholders can now load cash onto their cards at over 6,500 7-Eleven Inc. stores via Green Dot Corp.'s Swipe&Load technology. The technology embedded into POS systems allows cashiers to swipe and load the cards at the POS in exchange for cash.
Gustavo M. de la Garza Ortega, founder and President of Mexico telecommunications company Grupo Marcatel, was elected Chairman of the newly formed American PrePaid Phonecall Association. Pete Pattullo, CEO of cloud-based prepaid services company Network Enhanced Telecom LLP (doing business as NetworkIP), was elected Vice Chairman. And Gene Retske, retired editor of The Prepaid Press, will serve as Executive Director and oversee day-to-day operations.
Following the resignation of Mark Troughton, President, Cards and Network at Green Dot, the prepaid card pioneer said Kostas Sgoutas and Eric Duehring, division managers who reported to Troughton, will assume new executive vice president positions. Sgoutas becomes Chief Product Officer, Executive Vice President for Non-Retail Customer Acquisition and Duehring becomes Chief Marketing Officer, Executive Vice President of Retail Customer Acquisition.
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