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CVS Pilots Branded Loyalty Payment Card

CVS Caremark Corp. announced it will begin testing a new CVS-branded loyalty rewards payment card at its 141 stores located in the Indianapolis market this summer. The CVS ExtraCare Plus loyalty payment card will link the card-holder’s checking account to her CVS ExtraCare account. The service allows customers to earn CVS rewards benefits and securely pay for merchandise with the swipe of a single card.

To provide this service, CVS partnered with HSBC Finance Corp. of Prospect Heights, Ill. The CVS ExtraCare Plus card is the first card product to be available through the HSBC loyalty rewards PIN-payment program, which enables retailers to reduce checkout costs without making changes to POS processes. Additionally, CVS ExtraCare Plus members can use the card at the more than 200,000 locations in the United States that participate in HSBC’s Tempo Payment Network.

Shopping Centers Offer Themed Gift Cards

American Express (New York City) and Chicago-based General Growth Properties (GGP) are offering a selection of themed special-occasion gift cards. The American Express Gift Cards “Especially for Kids,” “Especially for Teens,” and “Especially for Birthdays,” were introduced at 10 shopping centers located in the Southeastern United States this summer and will continue to expand into additional GGP centers. Traditional GGP mall gift cards and American Express gift cards will also continue to be sold. Gift cards have continued to gain consumer approval and, in 2006, sales of American Express Gift Cards exceeded the combined sales of all previous years.

Loyalty Programs Enhance Customer Relations

Multichannel retailer Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, based in Medina, Minn., has partnered with San Francisco-based Loyalty Lab to manage customer relationships.

The 53-year-old retail chain, which has 33 store locations as well as Web-site and catalog sales, will utilize Loyalty Lab’s Web-based customer-relationship management (CRM) platform to enroll shoppers in its loyalty program as well as to process transactions, loyalty rewards and accruals.

The CRM platform will also centralize the retailer’s marketing and loyalty-campaign initiatives across all channels by drawing from a single database to initiate e-mail and POS communications.

Quick-Pay Preferred in Quick-Serve Venues

According to a new survey commissioned by Visa, the use of credit and debit cards for small-ticket purchases at quick-service restaurants (QSRs), such as fast-food restaurants, coffee shops and delis, makes for a more convenient experience and, potentially, a larger sale. Eighty-two percent of respondents agreed QSR purchases made with cards were more convenient than cash transactions and 68% said payment cards were faster than cash. Seventy-seven percent said cards enabled them to buy exactly what was desired because they were not limited to the cash in their wallets.

Visa’s “No Signature Required” program, which eliminates the signature requirement for credit-card purchases of less than $25, also contributed to the convenience and ease of QSR-card purchases. One in five survey respondents said they use cards to pay for more than half of their purchases in QSR settings.

Through the end of this month, Visa has also partnered with a leader in the QSR sector, Burger King, and launched a program to reward card users. From June 1 through Aug. 31, Burger King customers can earn credit toward a free meal by using their Visa credit or debit card for purchases.

The Visa survey also revealed that respondents would pay with plastic more often if card payment:

would enable them to get through lines faster (30%);

would earn them rewards or free meals (28%);

were accepted in more locations (27%); and

could be managed by the customer and they could swipe their own cards (27%).

According to Visa, more than 80% of the $160 billion spent in the QSR segment are cash transactions. However, in the 12 months ended March 31, Visa card payments at QSR venues increased 31% and debit-card transactions during the same period rose 32% over the previous year.

Visa’s QSR survey was conducted in May by Opinion Research Corp. and included phone interviews with more than 1,500 adults with credit or debit cards.

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