WASHINGTON - The following is a roundup of new products and services introduced by some of the 135 companies at the American Banker Association national bank card conference here this week.
Direct Data Systems of Hartland, Wis., a transaction terminal vendor, unveiled a merchant terminal called Des Cartes. It is the first machine in the United States that combines a printer, personal identification number keypad, and terminal and has the capacity to read smart cards.
Direct Data is offering the product in partnership with Paris-based Sinfa-Transtel.
A merchant might purchase three different machines at a total cost of $800 for the same services that Des Cartes offers at a price below $500. Additionally, Des Cartes' large memory can track shopper information, benefit-transfer transactions, cash management, and transactions that determine a consumer's insurance coverage.
"This combination of functions in one compact, affordable unit takes the clutter off the counter and tangle out of the cords," said Mike Malahy, president of Direct Data.
First Data Resources Inc. of Omaha, the leader in credit card processing, announced two debit card programs as well an "800"-number service it is offering in partnership with MCI Communications.
The debit programs will be available to banks by next January. The products - real-time balance and open-to-buy - are designed to reduce the risk of authorizing a sale for a cardholder who has insufficient funds. And both services protect a cardholder from being denied a purchase for the same reason.
Real-time balance gives banks immediate access to a cardholder's current balance. The issuer can update First Data's cardholder files any time.
Open-to-buy lets the issuer send First Data information on a customer's balance twice daily. Generally, those files are sent to First Data at the end of the issuer's nightly processing cycle.
Faster |800' Service
First Data and MCI announced a toll-free service called ResponseNet, which is designed to reduce the call transport time at the point of sale.
Calls made by merchants to traditional "800" numbers can take between 12 and 15 seconds to complete a transaction, but ResponseNet is expected to take nine seconds, about the same amount of time or faster than "950" numbers, which are known for their speed.
Some of First Data's largest clients will test the "800" number in the fourth quarter.
First Data also launched a joint initiative with MasterCard International to promote the association's debit product lines.
The program offers discounted card production rates for new issuers of MasterCard's Maestro and MasterCard Debit cards, as well as training for the financial institutions and promotions centered on MasterCard's sponsorship of the World Cup.
First Data had announced a similar program with Visa.
Fair, Isaac & Co., San Rafael, Calif., the provider of risk management tools, and Trans Union, one of the major credit bureaus, announced a program called Reward, which helps issuers prioritize collection efforts.
Reward assigns a delinquent cardholder a score, based on the amount of money the customer is likely to repay. High-scoring accounts will probably repay more than lower-scoring accounts. The latter might be given to a lender's more experienced collectors, or outplaced.
"The score can be used to rank delinquencies just entering collections, so that lenders can effectarget collection efforts to those accounts with the largest amounts likely to be repaid," said Cheri St. John, senior project manager at Fair Isaac.
Sprint is the first carrier to offer a nationwide "950" number.
Merchants would still have access to Sprint's "800" service, but those who elect to use the "950" number will receive authorization quicker.
Dom DeAngelo, vice president of data product management for Washington-based Sprint, said: "None of Sprint's competitors can offer nationwide. |950' access, because for them it requires a costly computer hardware upgrade."
First Bankcard Systems, an Atlanta-based software company, introduced a customer service program that enables banks to track how each inquiry is handled from beginning to end.
"Service Builder provides a way in which an issuer can case manage every customer inquiry. For example, all mail and telephone correspondence between the bank and the cardholder would be logged into the system," said Mark Wingate, senior vice president at First Bankcard.
The software also allows supervisors to monitor service representatives. Service Builder handles disputes, inquiries, requests for copies, cardholder information, and credit limit increases.