by Ty Hardison

Digital currency: trends, innovation and regulation

Discussion on Digital Money  

The shift from paper base to digital currency has been quietly transformative.   A panel of financial experts discuss digital currency, trends, innovation and regulatory policies to consider and avoid.  

To start, digital money trends show favorable growth.  Between 2003 and 2008, card-based transactions grew by 13% worldwide.  And government use is part of this growth.  For example, the U.S. federal government is using purchasing cards for procurement to save $1.7 billion a year according to a GAO study.  Beyond cards, consumers have embraced new technologies that facilitate convenient and secure electronic payments across a wide range of platforms.

While banks are regulated, what about a host of non-bank participants who provide … more

Smarter Taxes


With tax day almost here, it seems appropriate to consider what the federal tax system is costing taxpayers in addition to the taxes themselves. 

Complying with the federal income tax code amounts to imposing a 22.2-cent tax-compliance surcharge for every dollar the income tax system collects.

Corporations with assets of $1 million or less (more than 90 percent of all corporations) paid a minimum of $382 in compliance costs for every $100 they paid in income taxes. 

A compliance burden of 6 billion hours per year represents a work force of over 2,884,000 people: Larger than the populations of Dallas (1,210,393), Detroit (900,198) and Washington, D.C. (553,523) combined; and more people than work in the auto, computer manufacturing, airline manufacturing and steel … more

Visa Payroll Debit Cards Speed Tax Refunds

Another big benefit of having your pay direct deposited onto a Visa payroll debit card is that you can use the same routing and account number to also file your tax return electronically and get your refund directly deposited to your pay card in weeks instead of months!

According the, you can get your refund faster by telling the IRS to direct deposit your federal income tax refund on up to three different accounts.  If you want the IRS to deposit your refund into just one account, use the direct deposit line on your tax form.  However you also have a choice to direct deposit your refund to more than one account.  With split refunds (use IRS’ Form 8888), you have a convenient option for managing your money.  For example, if you use two paycards within … more

Credit Scoring, not just for banks

Financial institutions use technology and credit scoring strategies to manage lending activity. Now businesses lending to their customers by extending trade credit are learning the value of adopting credit monitoring solutions as an integral part of account receivable best practices.

The credit health of customers is top of mind for many CFOs today. Slow pays, delinquencies and credit losses have a major impact on companies of all sizes but are particularly harmful to small businesses that, in the past, have not had affordable credit scoring and monitoring solutions available.

As businesses emerge from the recession and sales pick up, the best practice is to determine those buyers with a higher probability of payment before extending credit. Like banks, businesses need processes in … more

Which is better for Mobile merchants? Touch Tone vs. iPhone

We are often asked to suggest processing solutions for mobile merchants. Recently more and more of those conversations are focused on payment applications for the iPhone. Much of the buzz can be attributed to VeriFone’s recently launched PAYware Mobile iPhone application; the first payment app with a card reader available for the iPhone clearly distinguishes it from all others.

In our experience, we have found accepting card payments on a smart phone to work best in a sales environment where a single user will operate the device, one customer at a time. And the PAYware Mobile solution has received positive client feedback from our early adopters. The thing about early adopters is that they want the latest technology regardless. But for others, they want to analyze their options. … more

Payment security compliance deadlines and revisions announced

Merchants should be aware of the pending payment industry deadline of July 1, 2010 related to the Payment Application Data Security Standards (PA-DSS).

Effective July 1, 2010, acquirers must ensure that merchants only use PA-DSS compliant applications.

What does this mean to merchants?  If you are using old payment devices or software, you may need to upgrade.  Merchants using point of sale register systems should inquire with their point of sale vendor about their compliance status if they have not already done so. Merchants should also review the information posted on the PCI Security Standards Council website at or on the Visa website at

PA- … more

New Merchant Services to lower costs and earn rewards

Merchant Rates, where ALL merchants large and small can get an Interchange rate price structure to lower their costs, has been redesigned with a new look for 2010. has also added new content. In addition to providing an instant, detailed merchant interchange rate quote calculator and guide, has created a Frequently Asked Questions resource, covering topics including:

Merchant Interchange Q&A

Merchant Rates Quote Q&A

Payment Technology Q&A

General Merchant Account Q&A

Card Payment Rules Q&A


Vantage Points Rewards, a client loyalty rewards and corporate giving program where a portion of the value of each award is donated to the Food Bank, has also been redesigned.

If you are not earning rewards processing … more

From Imaged to Paperless Checks

Paper checks don’t remain as paper very long. In today’s digital age, they are quickly imaged so they can be electronically cleared and settled.

Converting paper to digital images became law in 2003 with the passage of the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check21) and the initial implementation meant large companies and banks didn’t have to ship paper all around the country.

Today, more and more of the paper check imaging is being done by merchants and businesses that accept them. Community banks led the way in deploying remote-deposit check scanners as a way to offset the competitive advantage mega banks had with their branch network. By scanning and electronically depositing check images, community banks were able to attract business customers and businesses … more

No Interchange reform legislation in 2010

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank announced his committee would not take up Interchange legislation this year.   However there are steps that small businesses, family-owned restaurants, local retailers and service providers can take to help themselves without waiting on the government.

Immediately switch to an Interchange pass-through pricing plan.  For example, effective October 2010, Visa will extend Small Ticket Interchange to most merchants.  This is an effective reduction in the overall Interchange costs for most merchants.  However, few merchants will benefit since there is no difference between a transaction over or under $15 in their current merchant account contract.  In fact this is just one example.  Most merchants are … more

Strategy to Advance Contactless

In an article on Digital Transactions “Could Visa’s New No-Signature Rule Hurt Contactless Payments?” it was argued that Visa’s expansion of its policy to no longer require signatures for transactions less than $25 for most U.S. merchants would undermine contactless payments.

In our blog post Visa Changes Debit Debate, Backs Contactless, we suggested that extending Visa's No Signature Required (NSR) program (on transactions <$25) to most merchants (along with converging signature and PIN debit rates and expanding small ticket Interchange on transactions <$15) were policies that supported contactless payments.

Changing ingrained behavior takes time and doing it in steps makes sense.  Step one, training merchants and … more