The Incentive Research Foundation's Fall 2012 Pulse Survey found that businesses are rewarding employees more often with merchandise, gift cards and individual travel, as economic conditions disfavor group incentive travel programs. Thirty-one percent of survey respondents indicated they intend to increase the use of gift cards as an employee rewards tool in 2013.
The online survey of 2,461 incentive providers, suppliers to the industry and corporate incentive travel buyers showed that merchandise would see the biggest rise in employee usage, with 36 percent of survey respondents saying they would increase merchandise rewards. Meanwhile, 24 percent of respondents said they added gift cards to their reward programs, while 17 percent had decreased gift card usage in their programs.
According to the IRF, 44 percent of respondents anticipated they would "slightly increase" their budgets for noncash incentive programs in 2013.
Several prepaid card companies were named to Deloitte's 2012 Technology Fast 500 list, which ranks the fastest growing public and private companies in North America by the percentage of revenue growth from 2007 to 2011.
Cloud-based payroll manager Payoneer Inc. ranked 34 on the list, with revenue growth of 4,751 percent during this period. Payoneer accelerates the growth of its e-commerce clientele and other businesses by improving the way they make payments to over 200 countries, said Scott Galit, the company's founder and Chief Executive Officer.
Health-care card program manager Evolution1 Inc. came in at number 322. The provider of the Benny Prepaid Benefits Card and the Lighthouse1 OneCard said it had saved employers $43 million in administrative costs to date in 2012, eliminated over 52 million paper health care claims, and saved $79 million in automation savings.
Automated customer service solution firm Contact Solutions LLC grew by 189 percent from 2007 to 2011 to rank at number 396. Contact Solutions said it has had 10 consecutive years of double-digit, year-over-year revenue growth.
The 2012 holiday shopping season will be a windfall for gift card providers, according to the National Retail Federation. BIGinsight research, sponsored by the NRF, showed that 81.1 percent of shoppers will purchase at least one gift card during the holidays. Additionally, shoppers will spend an average of $156.86 on gift cards, which represents the highest amount in the survey's 10-year history, the NRF said.
The survey noted that the average spend per gift card stands at $43.75, with men planning to significantly outspend women on gift cards: $172.98 to $141.66, respectively. The survey also said the most popular gift cards purchased were for department stores, which received 39.1 percent of the vote from the 9,383 consumers polled online.
The American Express Co. added a mobile gift card service to its Membership Rewards program. AmEx cardholders can use rewards points to purchase gift cards via smart phones. Thirty-two percent of U.S. general consumers plan to use smart phones to pay for holiday shopping in 2012, an increase of 8 percent from 2011, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker survey.
Prepaid card distributor and Safeway Inc. subsidiary Blackhawk Network launched Blackhawk Digital. The company said its new e-gifting platform provides startups, e-commerce companies, payment companies, marketers and others access to Blackhawk's network of brand-name, retailer-specific gift cards via social media, digital wallets and other digital payment apps.
Prepaid card manufacturer CPI Card Group said it expanded the capabilities in its Nevada facility to support high-frequency contactless card encoding. The expansion enables CPI to provide a complete, in-house solution for the production, encoding and fulfillment of contactless chip cards for such installations as transit services, special events and theme parks.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank issued the Access 360o prepaid card. The MasterCard Worldwide-branded, general purpose, reloadable (GPR) card is available at the bank's 1,300 banking center locations.
GroupGifting.com changed the name of its social gifting service, MyGiftWand, to eGifter. The company said the rebranding represents its evolution via Facebook and mobile apps and coincides with a redesign of its website, found at www.egifter.com.
Nanterre, France-based smart card technology provider Oberthur Technologies inked a deal to provide Brussels, Belgium-based consumer credit specialist Buy Way Personal Finance with "smart," Europay/MasterCard/Visa- (EMV) compliant prepaid cards. The Buy Way- and MasterCard-branded EMV prepaid card will be available online and in retail locations across Belgium and The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
T-Mobile USA Inc.'s mobile virtual network operator, Roam Mobility Inc., introduced a self-activating SIM card that delivers three, seven, 14 or 30 days of unlimited, nationwide mobile talk and text. Ready SIM cards are inserted into prepaid smart phones, and users text their ZIP codes to Vancouver, Canada-based Roam Mobility to activate wireless plans.
The Royal Bank of Canada removed expiration dates and most of the fees on the RBC Visa Gift Card. An RBC poll found that 42 percent of Canadians surveyed said expiration dates and fees were reasons to not purchase gift cards.
AmEx chose Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) to provide mobile prepaid remote deposit capture technology for the Bluebird card. With FIS InstantFunds Mobile, smart phone users can scan checks via phone cameras to deposit funds to Bluebird accounts.
In other news, Blackhawk agreed to distribute a prepaid card co-branded by Univision Communications Inc. to grocery outlets in California and Texas.
Alternative payment network LevelUp Inc. teamed with NetSpend Holdings Inc. to provide GPR cards that offer monetary incentives to consumers who link NetSpend prepaid cards to LevelUp accounts. By linking such cards to accounts, NetSpend cardholders receive $10 credit to their LevelUp accounts.
The MADI Express GPR card was rolled out in the African nation of Botswana. The card is the product of a collaboration between MasterCard, London-based Prepaid Financial Services Ltd., Botswana-based Prepaid Debit Card Services Ltd. (PDS), and Kingdom Bank Africa Ltd. Almost 36 percent of the Botswana population is unbanked, according to PDS.
Program manager TransCard LLC and mobile technology provider DeviceFidelity Inc. allied to offer a MasterCard-branded mobile prepaid card program to financial institutions, retailers, program managers and mobile network operators. The program will include a mobile banking app that offers real-time balances, transaction histories, card-to-card transfers, cash-back rewards, reload options and a MasterCard PayPass-enabled POS locator.
U.S. Bank, the lead bank of U.S. Bancorp, acquired Jacksonville, Fla.-based prepaid card processor FSV Payment Systems. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the acquisition is expected to close in December 2012, with FSV folded into U.S. Bank's Elan Financial Services brand.
U.K.-based end-to-end prepaid solution provider Contis Group Ltd. appointed Kirsten English to its board of directors. English has held various executive and nonexecutive positions at financial firms listed on the London, Dublin, NASDAQ and Oslo stock exchanges.
Gift card marketer and distributor National Gift Card Corp. appointed Jodi Maggin as its Vice President of Business Development. Maggin was formerly a vice president at WeSave Inc., an online savings network for state government employees.
Microfinance lender Grameen Foundation named Christopher A. Tan to the position of Regional Chief Executive Officer for Asia. Tan, previously the foundation's Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia, is tasked with leading the organization's efforts to provide unbanked individuals in Asia with access to financial and information services.
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