Contra Costa Times: The gift certificates that give forever

Michael Liedtke reports on the California state law the prohibits expiration dates on most gift certificates in California.

Since 1997, state law has prohibited expiration dates on most gift certificates in California. Still, many merchants keep adding warnings that threaten to wipe out the value if they’re not used by a certain date. “Retailers are still out there trying to skin the public,” said Myron “Mike” Klarfeld, a San Diego lawyer who helped write California’s law against gift card expirations.

The alleged violations have spurred a flurry of class-action lawsuits filed by Klarfeld and other lawyers who want the courts to ensure Californians can use gift certificates at their leisure.

A lot of money is at stake, with the rise of prepaid debit cards turning gift certificates into increasingly popular items. Shoppers nationwide are expected to spend somewhere between $20 billion and $30 billion on gift certificates this year.

National Post: Can John Hunkin save CIBC?

Keith Kalawsky and Derek DeCloet report on the difficulties being experienced by CIBC.

One statistic illustrates why some investors have lost faith in Mr. Hunkin’s executive team. When he became CEO, he set a goal to outperform all other major Canadian banks in total shareholder return. But CIBC has been left in the dust by three of its rivals: Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia and Bank of Montreal. It has shrunk to smallest of the Big Five, with a $16-billion market capitalization. Mondex Taiwan expands card’s reach to Hi-Life

Cash is good but a smart card is better, e-wallet advocate Mondex Taiwan said yesterday.

Mondex Taiwan, a subsidiary of MasterCard, announced that 600 Hi-Life convenience stores would be accepting its store value card starting next Tuesday.

“You can purchase anything from newspapers to pientang (lunchboxes) using our Mondex card,” said company spokesman Harrison Hou. “You don’t have to worry about loose change and large bills anymore.”

Mondex’s electronic cash program can store value for up to five currencies and is globally inter-operable, said Hou. In Taiwan, cardholders are allowed to store up to NT$10,000 in their e-wallets, he continued.

Google experiments with product search: Froogle

Google has a new beta, Froogle, which is focused on doing for product search what Google has done for web pages.

Froogle is a new service from Google that makes it easy to find information about products for sale online. By focusing entirely on product search, Froogle applies the power of Google’s search technology to a very specific task: locating stores that sell the item you want to find and pointing you directly to the place where you can make a purchase.

Online merchants (U.S. only for the moment) can feed Froogle with their product details.

MasterCard: PayPass utilizes contactless card technology

MasterCard has announced PayPass, a new “contactless” card payment program that provides consumers with “a simpler way to pay.” More info available at

MasterCard PayPass is an enhanced payment card that features a hidden embedded computer chip and antennae. A cardholder simply taps or waves his or her MasterCard PayPass card on a specially equipped merchant terminal. The card then transmits payment details wirelessly, eliminating the need for a cardholder to hand over his or her card for a merchant to swipe through a reader. Account details are communicated directly to the special terminals and are then processed through MasterCard’s highly trusted acceptance network. Moments after a consumer taps the terminal with his or her PayPass card, they receive payment confirmation and are on their way.

MasterCard PayPass is built around globally interoperable standards and relies on the ISO Telecommunications Standard #14443 to transmit Track 2 data via radio frequency. In North America, where the majority of transactions are authorized on-line, the payment application data is based on the magnetic stripe information. The card/terminal interaction is based the MasterCard Proximity Chip – Online Profile, which is a subset of EMV/ISO7816 commands.

Wired: Happy Segway Owners

Leander Kahney reports on happy Segway owners.

Johnson bought his Segway for his mile-and-a-half commute to work. He was sick of sitting in traffic, isolated in his car, burning up fossil fuels.

“When you’re driving, you’re always calling everyone else on the road an asshole,” Johnson said. “The Segway is not that way. People are smiling and wanting to chat. It’s totally different. It’s nice.”

Australian IT: Iris scans for ATM card security

Caitlin Fitzsimmons reports on the application of iris scan biometric technology to ATM authentication.

VeriSign managing director Gregg Rowley says the security of the personal identification number (PIN) is also questionable. He says banks will move to smart cards over the next few years and biometrics will be the next step after that.

“Biometrics – such as a fingerprint scan or iris or retina scan – will replace the PIN,” Rowley says. “Most insecure is a magnetic stripe with a PIN, more secure is a smart card with a PIN and even more secure is a smart card with biometrics.”

Rowley says the iris scan is the best option because people will not want a laser beamed into their eyes for the retina scan, while a fingerprint reader will wear out and become dirty.