Moneris Solutions Corp.'s deal to resell DimpleDough Inc.'s online card-customization technology to Canadian retailers takes advantage of the growing popularity of personalizing closed-loop prepaid cards and sending them as gifts.

As part of a licensing agreement announced Jan. 5, Moneris, a Toronto payments processor, became a reseller of DimpleDough's technology and developed a dedicated Web site for client merchants and other retailers.

Moneris, which serves 350,000 retailers in Canada, links the Web site with those of participating retailers.

Consumers may log on to a participating merchant's Web site and navigate to Moneris' Cardtailor.com site to purchase and personalize reloadable gift cards, said Malcolm Fowler, senior vice president and general manager of Ernex, a Burnaby, British Columbia, division of Moneris that offers prepaid gift cards.

Consumers may use a photograph or a message of several lines to personalize their cards, he said. They select a template, upload a photograph from their computer or from Ernex's image archive, adjust the photograph and preview the card. The process takes less than 10 minutes.

Ernex prints the cards and mails them to the recipients, Fowler said. "We produce the physical card, activate it and provide fulfillment."

Card personalization has been available for five years for open-loop prepaid cards and for one to two years for closed-loop cards. But the market for the products is just now beginning to take off, said Tim Sloane, the director of prepaid advisory services at Mercator Advisory Group in Maynard, Mass.

"It's been a slow pickup, but it is becoming a phenomenal business now," Sloane said.

The Moneris/DimpleDough partnership has the potential to appeal to a large audience, because many consumers purchase prepaid cards from retailers' Web sites, he said. Mercator surveyed 1,012 consumers in July, and 14% of respondents had purchased prepaid cards through retailers' Web sites.

"There is a good opportunity there to sell personalized gift cards through retailers' Web sites," Sloane said.

Many consumers are uncomfortable giving typical gift cards because they are impersonal, observers say. Indeed, card personalization works for the gift giver, Sloane said.

He said it is too early to say whether receivers appreciate personalized cards more than other types of cards.

Fowler said personalized gift cards "cost less than a greeting card." Consumers also load 25% more funds into personalized card accounts than the average of about $60 for gift cards, he said.

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