Dallas-based TransFirst, recently announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the third party and agent bank merchant division of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions.
   The transaction will increase the company's current size from $11 billion to $18.5 billion in annual processing volume and will rank the company as the nation's 12th largest processor, according to The Nilson Report's 2002 list of top U.S. Bank Card Acquirers.
   In addition to the acquisition agreement, TransFirst and Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions have entered into a relationship in which Fifth Third will refer certain third-party merchant processing leads (such as agent bank, ISOs and ISCs) to TransFirst.
   With this acquisition, TransFirst will service more than 760 agent banks and process approximately $18.5 billion in annual sales volume for more than 150,000 merchants.
   TransFirst also announced in March that it has purchased Payment Resources International, adding about $1.8 billion in annual processing volume and 7,500 merchant contracts.
   The new division will be known as Payment Resource International, a TransFirst Company. The acquisition includes Newport Beach, CA-based Payment Resources' proprietary Internet and wireless payment-processing technology. Payment Resources' technology allows for delivery-service personnel to pay card-present interchange rates. Rouse estimates that could mean savings for a $100 transaction of 50 cents to 75 cents in comparison to card-not-present rates.
   Once TransFirst reaches the $20 billion level, Rouse says, economies of scale will allow it to compete for large retailers with the likes of First Data Corp. and U.S. Bancorp's Nova Information Systems. The purchase of Payment Resources is TransFirst's eighth since 2000 when management raised $500 million to grow the company organically or through acquisitions.
   TransFirst is majority owned by Chicago investor GTCR Golder Rauner LLC.
   InfoSpace, Inc. announced in March a definitive agreement to sell its Payment Solutions business to Lightbridge, Inc. for $82 million in cash.����
   As announced in October of 2003, InfoSpace is tightening its strategic focus to two businesses: Search & Directory and Mobile. "Although Payment Solutions is a growing, profitable business, we feel it is in the best interest of our shareholders, customers and employees to focus on fewer opportunities," said Voelker. "We see strong potential in both the online search and directory and mobile data industries, and will focus our resources toward capitalizing on those opportunities."���
   InfoSpace Payment Solutions, which operates under the brand Authorize.Net, provides IP-based payment solutions that enable merchants to authorize, settle and manage electronic transactions. Authorize.Net is sold through an extensive network of reseller partners and leading financial institutions that offer its industry-leading payment services to their merchant customers. In 2003, Payment Solutions generated $27.8 million in revenue and $6.9 million in segment income.���
   The transaction is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2004, and is subject to customary conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approval. Thomas Weisel Partners acted as financial advisor to InfoSpace.
   McDonald's Corp. will stop accepting ExxonMobil Corp.'s contactless radio-frequency Speedpass transponders for payment as of June 30.
   The chain began testing Speedpass in Chicago in 2000, with 440 restaurants participating. With Speedpass, users make purchases using preregistered credit or signature-based debit card information by waving the transponder, usually a key fob, over a reader at the point-of-sale. The chain plans to begin accepting various brands of PIN- and signature-based debit and credit cards with traditional magnetic stripes.
   Global Payments Inc. announced results for the third quarter ending February 29, 2004.
   Revenue grew 30% to $162.6 million compared to $124.6 million in the prior year. This includes $18.3 million in revenue recorded in the current quarter as a result of recent acquisitions, which primarily consists of DolEx and, to a lesser extent, the MUZO acquisition which was announced on February 20, 2004. Net income grew 36% to $16.5 million compared to $12.1 million in the prior year quarter and diluted earnings per share grew 31% to $0.42 compared to $0.32 in the prior year quarter.�
   For the nine months ending February 29, 2004, revenue grew 17% to $447.5 million compared to $381.8 million in the prior year period.�Net income grew 24% to $50.1 million from $40.3 million in the prior year period and diluted earnings per share grew 21% to $1.29 from $1.07 in the prior year period, excluding a restructuring charge of $2.9 million, net of tax of $0.07 per share in the current year period.�Year-to-date GAAP net income and diluted earnings per share were $47.2 million and $1.22, respectively.
   Televigation and Creditel are joining forces to offer a packaged, point-of-sale (POS) and global positioning system (GPS) tracking solution for businesses with remote workers.
   The initiative will combine Televigation's TeleNavTrack, a mobile, phone-based tracking service with electronic time sheet reporting and interactive dispatching with Creditel's PowerSwipe, a device that attaches to select Motorola iDEN� handsets, turning the handset into a mobile credit card terminal. By merging the Televigation and Creditel services, the companies will provide the most affordable application suite, cutting costs for users while improving customer service and support through a combined offering.�
   The solution benefits businesses in field services, construction, transportation and delivery industries by enabling them to process credit cards quickly and securely while tracking the location and activities of their field staff and mobile assets. Efficiencies are achieved through a single billing statement, rapid deployment and support center, providing a one-stop solution.�
   According to IDC and Jupiter Media Matrix, electronic commerce from mobile devices was estimated at $2.1 billion in 2003 and will rise to $5.7 billion in 2004.
   More than 10 billion automated clearing house (ACH) payments were made in 2003, according to statistics released in March by NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association at its PAYMENTS 2004 conference.
   NACHA reported a grand total of 10.017 billion ACH payments in 2003 valued at $27.4 trillion, representing increases of 12.0% and 12.3%, respectively, over 2002. The number of ACH payments originated by commercial financial institutions increased to 9.09 billion in 2003, up 12.9% from 2002. These payments were valued at $24.6 trillion. The Federal government originated a total of 924 million ACH payments in 2003, up 3.5%, and valued at $2.8 trillion.
   ACH payments include Direct Deposit of payroll, Social Security benefits and tax refunds, Direct Payment of consumer bills, e-checks, business-to-business payments and Federal tax payments.

 ACH Volume (in millions)
   2003  2002  % Increase
  Inter-Bank  6,607  5,780  14.3
  On-Us  2,485  2,270  9.5
 9,092  8,050  12.9
 924  893  3.5
 Total  10,017  8,944  12.0
   In March, Plug & Pay Technologies, Inc. announced that it has been notified by Visa that it has achieved compliance with Visa's Card Information Security Program (CISP), reflecting the Company's commitment to security by meeting the rigorous requirements of Visa CISP.
   Visa's Cardholder Information Security Program was established to ensure that security guidelines defining a standard of due diligence in protecting sensitive cardholder information were followed by all companies that store, process or transmit Visa cardholder data. To satisfy the CISP audit, companies must meet certain rigorous security requirements through an independent security audit.
   Chockstone, Inc., and Vesta Corp., two leading companies in the stored value industry, recently announced an alliance to expand the functionality of retail-branded stored value cards. Together, the two companies will enable stored value cardholders to add prepaid long distance or wireless minutes to their existing cards.
   With one card and one account number, consumers can access prepaid funds for retail purchases and phone minutes while simultaneously earning loyalty credits redeemable for additional purchases. By issuing these cards, retailers can reduce acquisition costs and increase loyalty by offering an innovative card program.
   Plug & Pay Technologies, Inc. has formalized a referral partnership with Global Payments Inc which will allow Plug'n Pay to offer its Internet gateway and fraud protection services through Global's direct sales force, its agents and its ISO channel.
   TNS Inc. recently launched an initial public offering, selling 4.42 million shares at $18, and raising about $79.6 million. TNS announced that proceeds would be used to pay down debt.
   Reston, VA-based TNS, which is the holding company of Transaction Network Services, operates a telecommunications network designed for electronic funds transfer transactions from point-of-sale devices and automated teller machines.
   In 2003, 7.9 billion transactions flowed over TNS' network for 115 customers in the U.S. and Canada. Customers include nine of the 10 largest payment processors. TNS also provides network services to over 400 financial services firms. It has divisions in Australia and several European countries. At year-end 2003, it had 451 employees. Its predecessor company, Transaction Network Services Inc. traded publicly until 1999 when it was acquired by PSINet, Inc. Chicago-based investor GTCR Golder Rauner bought the company in April 2001 with John McDonnell, TNS Chairman and CEO, After PSINet declared bankruptcy. GTCR continues to hold 71.8% of TNS' shares after the IPO. In 2003, TNS reported a net loss of $1.1 million on revenues of $223.4 million. Prior to the IPO, it had an accumulated deficit of $39.8 million. The ticker symbol is TNS.
   Symmetrex, Inc, a nation-wide secured financial payments transaction processing company, formed a partnership with Transaction Management, LLC (TMLLC), a leading electronic payment services company developing, marketing and processing electronic transaction and walk-in bill payment services to a nationwide market for Security Bank, Ralls, Texas.
   An estimated 25 million U.S. wage earners who operate without checking accounts represent a market in need of a solution. TMLLC offers the solution for this significant segment of the population via the web-based tool EmpaSys "Pay All Bills Here"( and, an electronic bill payment solution from Security Bank, available to merchants worldwide.
   The EmpaSys "Pay All Bills Here" system has been integrated real-time into the Symmetrex i24Card prepaid card management system as a biller, giving their cardholders instant loading capabilities to their card accounts and providing access to those funds immediately. Along with prepaid loading functions, Symmetrex's card issuing clients will also be authorized to access all of the bill payment services offered through EmpaSys.
   InterCept, Inc., Atlanta, recently sold its merchant services division, InterCept Payment Solutions in a pair of separate transactions � one for the sale of Internet Billing Company, LLC (iBill) and another for the sale of the remainder of the IPS business. The total sale price for both transactions was $53.5 million, which is $16.1 million more than the sale price stated in a letter of intent for the sale of IPS announced in February.
   Media Billing, L.L.C., a subsidiary of Penthouse International, Inc., purchased all of the outstanding member interests of Internet Billing Company (iBill) for $700,000 million in cash, an $800,000 short-term note and assumption of a $22 million working capital deficit.
   Pay By Touch, a privately held provider of biometric authentication and payment solutions, purchased the remainder of the IPS business, including InterCept's wholly-owned subsidiary, InterCept Payment Solutions, Inc., and InterCept's merchant portfolio management business based in Tennessee. The sale price for that transaction was $30.5 million, composed of: $12 million cash; a $15.5 million note due in 180 days that is guaranteed by three Pay By Touch stockholders; a one year $2.5 million note that is convertible into Pay By Touch preferred stock currently valued at $2.5 million at InterCept's option; and shares of Pay By Touch preferred stock.
   New York city taxis will accept credit and debit cards by November 2005 under recent action approved by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission under its taxi fare adjustment and service improvements plan. Taxis in some other major cities also accept credit cards, though the practice isn't universal even in those communities.
   The adoption of payment card transactions for similar mobile uses is expected to grow as the underlying technologies improve and costs drop.
   In mid-June, California joins the nation's other 49 states in offering PIN-based debit cards rather than the traditional food stamps for qualified individuals to access food benefits, according to the U.S. Food & Nutrition Service, which administers the program.
   Ohio and Wyoming have offline programs. The other states, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia have online programs.
   Federal legislation in 1996 mandated a change to the EBT program with the idea that it would reduce costs as well as fraudulent use of food stamps.
   Sam's Club recently ended its pilot in the Northeast to accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards. Visa debit cards are still being accepted, according to a Sam's Club spokesperson.
   The stores are also continuing to accept Discover cards and Sam's Club own private-labeled cards. The company's Web site will also continue to accept the MasterCard and Visa credit cards.