On Jan. 28, 2013, California State Sen. Michael J. Rubio, D-16th District, introduced a bill that would ban state food stamp recipients from using electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages. The bill is designed to combat the epidemic of obesity in California.
SB 134 would direct California's State Department of Social Services to exclude sugar-sweetened beverages containing more than 10 calories per cup from the list of allowable food items that can be purchased by CalFresh benefit recipients using the EBT cards. CalFresh is the state's food stamp program funded by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. CalFresh benefits are distributed on a county-by-county basis.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an inquiry into financial products marketed to college students. The bureau expressed concern that products like financial aid disbursement cards and campus ID cards that double as prepaid debit cards are not consumer friendly financial instruments for college and university students.
"We have seen many colleges establish relationships with financial institutions to offer banking services to their students," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "The Bureau wants to find out whether students using college-endorsed banking products are getting a good deal."
Gift cards are gaining popularity in Canada, according to a November 2012 survey of over 1,000 Canadian consumers. The survey commissioned by prepaid card distributor InComm and conducted online by Northstar Research Partners said gift cards are becoming more popular because Canadians like their convenience, ease of use, variety and last-minute gifting functionality.
The Gift Card Usage and Attitudes Research survey said the most popular cards overall were in the department store, fine dining and quick service restaurant categories, while general purpose reloadable (GPR), online gaming, wireless airtime reloading and long-distance calling were the most popular types of cards purchased for self use. The report noted that Canadians bought an average of 10.6 gift cards for others in 2012.
AccountNow Inc. reported that taxpayers nationwide who direct deposit tax refunds to AccountNow-managed GPR cards will automatically be entered into AccountNow's Tax Refund Sweepstakes. Winners' tax refunds could be tripled to $15,000, the company said.
Blackhawk Network (Canada) Ltd. is discounting select gift cards at 20 flagship Safeway Inc. stores in Calgary and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The cards will offer discounts of 20 to 30 percent off of face value.
Campus card provider CardSmith updated the payment system for campus bookstore operator Follett Higher Education Group. CardSmith said Follett store associates can now use cash registers to process campus card transactions and other forms of payment, thereby cutting down on wait times for customers. The update also extends to online book ordering.
Customer care specialist Contact Solutions LLC reported record-breaking call volume during the first month of 2013 on its interactive voice response and customer contact systems. Additionally, the firm said it capped 10 consecutive years of double-digit annual revenue growth.
Global Payout Inc. registered a company in the United Kingdom, Global Funding Ltd., to become a program manager in Europe. Global Funding was formed in August 2012 to support Europay/MasterCard/Visa-enabled prepaid cards.
GroupGifting.com, the developer of web and mobile social gifting app eGifter, added a card scanning feature to the app that allows users to use mobile phones to scan physical gift cards to add those gift card accounts to the app. In March, the company plans to release a new version of the app that loads accounts into Apple Inc.'s Passbook app on iPhones.
Plastic Cash International subsidiary MyPlash, which provides GPR cards for teens and young adults, is embarking on a $5 million national marketing campaign to generate awareness for the MyPlash Prepaid MasterCard as a safe, easy and responsible tool for money management. The campaign will include mobile, online and print media, as well as national talk show appearances and commercials.
Prepaid voucher provider paysafecard group launched its newest product, my paysafecard, in 21 European countries. The new product allows paysafecard users to store accounts in digital wallets online.
Payroll card company TFG Card Solutions Inc. is marketing its Visa Inc.-branded paycards as instruments for holding tax refund cards as well. The firm cited Visa research that only a third of all prepaid cardholders realize that tax refunds can be loaded onto general purpose reloadable (GPR) prepaid cards.
Sightline Interactive, a subsidiary of casino payment services provider Sightline Payments LLC, and acquirer Vantiv launched a GPR card for Colusa Casino Resort in Northern California. The Discover Financial Services-branded Loyalty Card Plus is a GPR card designed to enhance casino patrons' gaming entertainment. The card allows users to prefund accounts and load casino winnings, as well as purchase from any retailer on Discover's network.
The American Express Co. joined forces with Twitter to enable AmEx cardmembers to purchase AmEx gift cards via "tweets" on Twitter. The purchases are "synched" between the card brand and the social media platform via AmEx's Card Synch technology.
Bankcard processor Jack Henry & Associates Inc. and prepaid card program manager TransCard LLC teamed to provide payroll, GPR and gift card programs for financial institutions (FIs). Both companies are already focused on the FI payments sector.
Aurora, Colo.-based ISO TransFirst LLC allied with Valutec to offer gift and loyalty card programs to TransFirst merchants. The companies said TransFirst will sign up merchants to the programs and Valutec, an FIS company, will provide the service.
Prepaid payment software firm VendTek Systems Inc. teamed with bill payment processor TIO Networks Corp. to add walk-in bill pay functionality to VendTek's 15,000 retail locations in Canada that utilize VendTek's technology. VendTek expects the partnership to enhance its competitive position against prepaid telecommunication providers in Canada.
U.K.-based online payments firm Skrill, formerly Moneybookers Ltd., reported it had completed its acquisition of Austria-based paysafecard. Skrill said the purchase expands its presence as a digital wallet provider, since paysafecard processed over 55 million transactions in 33 countries in 2012.
Teen card provider BillMyParents Inc. added to its board of directors. The company named its President, William Hernandez, to the board. Hernandez previously served on BillMyParents' Strategic Advisory Board. Additionally, the teen payment brand appointed Dr. Christopher Leong as an independent board member. Leong is co-founder and President of Singapore-based venture capital firm Transpac Capital Pte. Ltd.
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