In October 2012, Google Inc. discontinued the Google Prepaid Card feature of Google Wallet and said it would refund to users the balances left over on mobile prepaid Google accounts. But in early December, Google acknowledged that "unexpected processing issues" had delayed users from receiving refunds and informed them they would receive their unused balances by Dec. 22, 2012.
Google did not specify the processing problem involved, but indicated the issue was resolved. However, users were reportedly upset that Google did not inform them of the status of their refunds after the prepaid card feature was discontinued.
Google said it discontinued the card because the company moved Google Wallet to the cloud to allow users to store any credit or debit card in the mobile wallet. The prepaid card was a component of the initial Google Wallet strategy announced in May 2011 and rolled out that September.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is going paperless for the disbursement of tax refunds. Beginning in tax year 2013, Virginia residents who do not get refunds direct deposited to bank accounts will automatically be issued prepaid debit cards in lieu of paper checks. Virginia said the move to prepaid is a cost savings initiative mandated by its budget for the years 2012 through 2014.
The Virginia Tax Refund Debit Card is a MasterCard Worldwide-branded, non-reloadable prepaid card. Virginia contracted with Xerox State and Local Solutions Inc., formerly Affiliated Computer Services Inc. (acquired by Xerox Corp. in 2010), to manage the program. Virginia taxpayers will activate tax refund cards via Xerox's Go Program web portal.
New Zealand's Commerce Commission issued new guidelines for companies operating in the country's prepaid phone card market. The guidelines, which address the disclosure practices of phone card providers, were promulgated after the commission received complaints from phone card users that they were not receiving the number of call minutes advertised. The commission said providers that do not follow the guidelines will be in violation of New Zealand's Fair Trading Act.
"Consumers should not have to carry out a mathematical exercise to work out which card offers the best rate," said Stuart Wallace, Competition Manager of the Commerce Commission.
The commission cited one instance of a company convicted and fined $140,000 in late 2011 for draining phone cards of value after users made initial phone calls with the cards. The commission noted that the guidelines are general principles to provide phone card companies "an indication of factors that are likely to trigger a Commission investigation."
As part of its global expansion efforts, Pune, India-based ElectraCard Services opened operations in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. ECS said the new office will help the prepaid card processor and Opus Software Solutions subsidiary shore up its growing business in the Middle East and Africa.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands-based security technology firm Gemalto NV is deploying a prepaid card program for Moscow-based Svyaznoy Bank. The cards will be distributed via Svyaznoy's network of 35 bank branches across Russia, as well as at over 3,000 POS locations for mobile phone services in Russia.
Mobile gift card exchange operator Gyft Inc. rolled out a version of its mobile gifting app for devices that run on Google's Android operating system. Gyft, which launched in September 2012 with an app for the Apple Inc. iPhone, said it is adding thousands of new users daily with its iPhone app and doubled its user base in November and December.
Tax preparation specialist H&R Block Inc. added new consumer benefits to its prepaid Emerald card. Taxpayers who choose to have tax returns loaded onto the MasterCard Worldwide-branded card can receive instant cash rewards from select retailers and instant access to funds via mobile check deposit.
Redwood City, Calif.-based prepaid card processor i2c Inc. reported its data processing center in Shanghai, China, is now operational. The processor said the data center is i2c's third and will provide in-country processing support for its clients in China.
In other news, Latin American bank holding company Banco do Brasil Americas tapped i2c to process student aid disbursements on a prepaid card designed for Brazilian students studying abroad.
InComm rolled out a PIN-on-receipt delivery solution for Xbox gamers. The PINs are available at Dollar General Corp. locations.
The Magic card, a prepaid MasterCard promoted by basketball superstar Earvin "Magic" Johnson, added the Magic Mojo Savings Goals program, which rewards cardholders for saving money by diverting funds into savings accounts via text messages. The program is managed by Piggymojo. Magic Johnson Enterprises also reported that Magic cardholders now have access to MasterCard's MoneyPass surcharge-free ATM network of over 23,000 ATMs nationwide.
Vienna, Austria-based paysafecard group extended its online prepaid voucher solution to Hungary. The paysafecard will initially be available in Hungary via over 170 OMV gas stations.
Sage North America, headquartered in McLean, Va., launched Sage Business Prepaid Visa Card to help small and midsized businesses manage the funds they disburse to their employees. Using the card program, SMBs can institute employee spending limits and monitor card usage online.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based currency exchange operator UAE Exchange said it is behind the first six-currency prepaid travel card launched in the Middle East. The MasterCard-branded gocash card can be used at 34.3 million merchant locations and 1.5 million ATMs, according to the exchange.
The Western Union Co. offered fee-free money transfers to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Bopha, a category 4 typhoon that hit the Philippines in early December 2012. Additionally, the Western Union Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to the Philippine Red Cross for relief efforts.
Digital, on-demand prepaid card maker Arroweye Solutions Inc. teamed with cents-off-per-gallon rewards provider Drop Tank LLC for a corporate card program that allows corporations with fleets to save on gas.
In partnership with PayPal Inc., prepaid card distributor InComm launched the PayPal My Cash Card in 30,000 retail locations in the United States. Consumers buy the cards to fund their PayPal accounts.
A MasterCard- and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.-cobranded MoneyCard was unveiled for hunter apparel retailer Mossy Oak. The card, managed by Green Dot Corp., issued by GE Capital Retail Bank and available in nearly 2,000 Wal-Mart stores, features Mossy Oak's camouflage design.
InComm acquired online-to-offline (O2O) commerce platform provider Adility Inc. InComm said the purchase will allow businesses to help the online and mobile channels to generate revenue at brick-and-mortar retail locations.
As part of InComm's Adility acquisition, Adility founder and President Thomas Cornelius joined InComm's executive team. He retained his title of president at Adility and will focus on the convergence of O2O sales.
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