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New Seasons Prepaid Travel Card Lets UK Holidaymakers and Business Travellers Take Their Pounds Around The World, Thinking and Spending in Sterling Regardless of Destination

August 28th, 2014

New Seasons Prepaid Travel Card Lets UK Holidaymakers and Business Travellers Take Their Pounds Around The World, Thinking and Spending in Sterling Regardless of Destination 

Supporting UK consumer research highlights dissatisfaction with travel cards due to market complexity and ‘shocking’ hidden fees

28 August 2014 – UK holidaymakers can now forget about FX rates, avoid hidden card charges and currency buy-back fees and spend in any local currency knowing the precise cost in pounds, thanks to ‘Seasons’, an innovative Visa prepaid debit travel card, digital account and mobile app, launched today by prominent European e-Money institution, Contis Group.

Seasons is designed to make the business of taking and spending money abroad much easier. Holiday money loaded onto the Seasons online account is held in sterling and is converted as each transaction is made, using highly competitive FX rates. Seasons challenges the travel money market status quo, removing the need to convert pounds before travelling abroad and providing customers with a cost effective and innovative mobile product that is both simple and intuitive.

Seasons makes the planning and monitoring of holiday funds easy. Holidaymakers can manage their money on the move via the Seasons mobile app and online account, tracking their transactions and total spend in real time and in pounds.

By doing away with the need for holidaymakers to purchase large sums of local currency, Seasons eliminates the risk of over or underestimating the amounts of each currency that will be needed for each trip and, as a result, avoids triggering more charges, either to buy more currency, or to buy-back sterling at the end of the trip. Instead, Seasons levies a modest 1% transaction fee in Euro zone, or 1.5% in any other Visa-accepting country worldwide.

An independent study of 1,000 UK consumers*, commissioned to accompany the launch of Seasons, revealed that sorting out travel money is a constant source of frustration for the UK’s holidaymakers. More than half of the survey’s respondents stated that they found ever-changing FX conversion rates confusing. What’s more, 79% described themselves as ‘shocked and disappointed’ by the ‘hidden charges’ that are often taken directly from their balances, to cover fees such as card inactivity, or monthly administration. Two out of every three respondents (66%) described the travel card market as overly complex, with the various card products being too difficult to compare. 57% of respondents also said they spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find the best deal.

“Consumers are fed up of feeling like they’re being duped by hidden fees, inflated FX rates and currency buy-back charges,” comments Jenny Whiteside, Product Manager of Seasons. “According to our research, three in five people still won’t consider a prepaid travel card, despite the convenience and security that they offer over cash. Seasons tackles these issues by taking a simpler, more practical and longer-term approach. Because the card account is always kept in sterling it is ideal for families planning holidays, gap year students travelling through a variety of currency destinations, business people hopping between continents, or adventurous retirees that can afford to spend more time away from home exploring different parts of the world. And when the cardholder’s trip finally comes to an end, any remaining funds can be spent in the UK without penalty, or indeed set aside in a special digital envelope ready for the next trip.”

The new card and account lets travellers pay using a real-time Visa FX conversion rate, which cardholders can view live via the Seasons accompanying mobile app (Android and iPhone). “Seasons gives holidaymakers the best deal on the day by combining a highly competitive Visa FX rate with low overall fees, thus saving them money,” adds Whiteside. “97% of research respondents agreed that getting the best possible rate was important, so we know this is going to be a popular feature.”

“Too many holidaymakers are dogged by costly and inconvenient travel cards. Some have to get different cards for different currencies. Others have to dispose of existing cards and reapply for each trip in order to avoid additional fees. Many others have fiddly systems for managing multiple currencies on a single card, with high FX conversion rates as you move money between currencies.  Seasons cardholders can simply add pounds to their card and go wherever they want.”

“We are pioneering a shift away from one-hit-wonder travel cards,” continues Whiteside. “All too often people come back from holiday with €20 on a card, take a hit to convert the cash into sterling and pay a £5 redemption fee to get the money back into their regular account. The card then gets thrown in a drawer, never to be used again. Seasons is a simpler and cheaper approach. Spend anywhere using the best rate available at that moment, continue spending without penalty when you get home and use the same card every time you go away.”

Registration for the Seasons card, price comparison information, FAQs together with other product information can be found at

Key features**:

  • Flexible Visa debit travel card and account
  • Sterling card to avoid complexity and buyback charges
  • Competitive FX rates using the Visa live currency exchange, commission free
  • Online portal with full card management and card block function
  • Mobile app  for iPhone and Android keeps users connected all the time
  • Envelope facility to support effective money management and planning
  • Free additional card allows users to use the platform like a joint account or have a backup for lost/stolen cards
  • 24-hour lost/stolen assistance and customer service
  • SMS message option that tells you about every spend, load and net sterling balance
  • Remote PIN number recovery, via Mobile app, online and IVR
  • UK PIN reset to personal selection

Account costs:

  • 2 card pack fee – free (if the first load is £100 or more, otherwise £5)
  • Replacement card/second companion card – £5
  • Monthly charge – free

Loading fees:

  • Via internet banking – free
  • Via Bacs – free
  • Via debit card – Free for £250 and above (50p otherwise

Transaction costs:

  • POS purchase UK – free
  • POS purchase Europe – 1.00%
  • POS purchase International – 1.5%
  • ATM UK – 75p
  • ATM Europe – 1.00% + additional fee of £1 if less than an equivalent of £100 is withdrawn
  • ATM International – 1.50% + additional fee of £1 if less than an equivalent of £100 is withdrawn

Other costs:

  • Inactivity fee – free
  • Redemption fee – £2
  • Administration fee – free
  • SMS messages (balance, load  and transaction details) – £0.05p


* Independent survey of 1,010 UK consumers conducted by The Leadership Factor in July 2014

**A full list of functionality and fees can be found on

Posted in Latest News


July 30th, 2014

UK based Contis Group is an international provider of prepaid Visa debit account and gift card solutions. The company has signed an agreement with Seamless (OMX: SEAM) that provides Seamless customers the ability to transact using the SEQR-app in the UK.  They will be able to manage their SEQR account on-line using the Contis web portal to load and top up their SEQR account, check balances and manage their use of this innovative PoS solution. SEQR-app.

In an extremely competitive market, UK retailers are looking for new and innovative ways to reward loyal customers and find new ways to drive traffic to their stores. Retailers are looking for ways to get customers to use reloadable, so called closed loop products, to maintain low transaction costs, while consumers want to limit the amount of cards and papers in their wallet.

Together with Contis, the mobile payment solution SEQR will eliminate the need for physical gift cards for the larger retailers in the UK. Today a significant percentage of purchases in the UK are made with prepaid stored value cards and they can now be accessed through SEQR instead, says Seamless CEO Peter Fredell.

The collaboration means that also smaller retailers and cafés that would like to offer their customers paper punch cards can enhance the customer experience by offering them to go mobile instead. In addition, through SEQR retailers can offer a method of payment, connection to loyalty programs, coupons and digital receipts – all in one single app.

Contis Group Managing Director, Mike Fromant commented: “Contis Group, along with our recently launched brand, the Gift & Loyalty Company, are continually aiming to deliver innovation in the sector and the next generation of prepaid gift and loyalty programmes. By supporting the Seamless SEQR product we will be able to include this innovative mobile payment solution into our portfolio, and deliver tailor made solutions and develop new concepts for the fast moving international retail and leisure industry.



Contis, as a Principal Member of Visa (Europe) and a specialist provider of international end-to-end payment solutions. We have the infrastructure and platforms behind each scheme providing our clients and their customers with a trouble free prepaid, gift and loyalty card experience. Contis is a business built on a heritage of financial expertise and experience, in payment processing, prepaid and gift card scheme development, processing and management.

With full control of our own developed systems means we can change, adapt and respond to customers’ needs and environmental challenges and regulatory changes quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. Our wealth of experience, evolving processing, sophisticated systems, which are managed and developed in-house, ensure we provide the best end-to-end prepaid payment solutions that are supported by world banking standard systems and our excellent customer service teams.


ABOUT SEQR, by Seamless

SEQR (se•cure) is Sweden’s and Europe’s most used mobile wallet in stores and online. SEQR enables anybody with a smartphone to pay in stores, at restaurants, parking lots and online, transfer money at no charge, connect loyalty programs, store receipts digitally and receive offers and

promotions directly through one mobile app. Through the SEQR app, the user simply scans or taps a QR-code/NFC at check-out and approves the purchase by entering a PIN code. Fast, smooth and safe, SEQR’s payment solution enables merchants to lower interchange fees significantly compared to those charged by traditional card companies. SEQR’s unique transaction platform has been developed by Seamless, one of the world’s largest suppliers of payment systems for mobile phones.

Founded in 2001 and active in 30 countries, Seamless handles more than 3, 1 billion transactions annually through 525 000 active sales outlets. 5 200 merchants have chosen SEQR including Sweden’s largest grocery chains, fast food chains and national retailer chains including McDonald’s, Hemköp and Ur&Penn. SEQR was launched in Romania in 2013, in Finland in 2014 and is scheduled to launch in Belgium in 2014. In 2013, SEQR won the Mobile Money Global Award for Best Mobile Money Deployment in Europe. Seamless is traded on Nasdaq OMX Stockholm, under the SEAM ticker.



For more information:
Peter Fredell, CEO Seamless, +46 8 564 878 00,
Anders Forssten, Chief Marketing Officer Seamless, +46 705 10 47 31,

This information is such information that Seamless Distribution AB (publ) is required to disclose pursuant to the Swedish Securities Market Act and/or the Swedish Financial Instrument Trading Act. The information was released for publication on July XX, 2014 at 07.50 am (CET).

Posted in Latest News

Contis Group Powers Ffrees

July 23rd, 2014

Contis Group, one of Europe’s leading e-money institutions, has empowered Ffrees to reinvent UK consumer financial services, through the provision of a fully managed, integrated current account with a Visa debit card and loyalty and rewards programme.

By utilising Contis’ end-to-end service capabilities and next generation Visa e-money platform, Ffrees has launched a complete reinvention of the current account, enabling families to save as they spend, avoid exorbitant bank charges and take advantage of a variety of innovative money management tools that are available via their online account facility. Since the launch of its new products in October 2013, Ffrees has attracted more than 20,000 customers to its services and continues to issue new accounts at a rate of 200 a day.

Ffrees targets customers that are acknowledged to be unprofitable for the banks and who, as a consequence, often get poor service and value from them. The Ffrees account is available regardless of social or financial status and helps customers build up savings in a separate account by rewarding them for using the Ffrees network of over 1,000 retail and financial services providers. It also offers free services, such as the Ffrees Money Manager, which lets customers create separate “Envelopes” to help control the family budget and put money aside for regular bills.

“Ffrees is a perfect example of what can be achieved with Contis’ next generation e-money platform and Visa issuance services,” comments Mike Fromant, Managing Director Contis Group. “Thousands of consumers are now managing their money more effectively, and making it work harder for them through integrated loyalty and rewards. Contis is all about providing agility and flexibility in financial services. As a Principal member of Visa, we are able to provide a much wider range of services than most e-money institutions, including BIN sponsorship, card issuance, payment processing and programme management.  Ffrees has recognised the benefits of working with Contis as a complete end-to-end partner and we are delighted to have a hand in their success.

Peter Simpson, Commercial Director, Ffrees, adds, “Our goal is to make simple, effective money management services available to everyone, helping them save. We believe that the market needs not only new players but different ideas. We chose Contis as our platform provider as they offered us an array of integrated money management and account services which mean we can offer our customers something truly fresh.”

Ffrees joins a long list of high profile brands served by the Contis Group, including Virgin, Pizza Express, airBaltic and Empire Cinemas. As a result of these wins, together with the growing popularity of its own credEcard product, the Contis Group has expanded its annualised monthly recurring revenue at a compound annual growth rate of 202% between June 2012 and March 2014. The total number of accounts operating on Contis’ platform has increased by 385% between June 2013 and March 2014, and the number of monthly prepaid transactions has rocketed by 339% over the same period, illustrating the market’s appetite for the Contis service model. Further revenue growth of 147% is anticipated for financial year 2015.

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Contis Group Announces Strategic Partnership with Oblong Cards

June 20th, 2014

Contis’ Next Generation Prepaid Platform to Power Oblong’s Bespoke Card Solutions for Member Organisations Worldwide

19 June, 2014 – Contis Group, one of Europe’s leading e-money institutions, today announces a strategic partnership with prepaid specialist Oblong Cards. Under the terms of the partnership, Contis Group’s next generation payments infrastructure will power a portfolio of open, restricted and closed loop prepaid card solutions delivered by Oblong to its international client base of member organisations.

Oblong Cards specialises in delivering card solutions that create unique value for the members of clubs, unions and other community and member-driven organisations across a variety of sectors, from travel and tourism, to sport and financial services. Through the partnership, Oblong can leverage the flexibility and versatility of Contis’ prepaid platform, together with its status as a Principal Member of Visa, in order to design solutions that are tailored precisely to the individual needs of each of its clients.

Commenting on the partnership, Ian Hossack, Managing Director of Oblong Cards, says: “Oblong doesn’t produce standard products for its clients. Our relationship with Contis empowers us to create solutions that meet each of our client’s specific objectives with the confidence that our core supporting platform is capable of supporting the concept. Contis is one of just a handful of providers capable of offering all the components needed to bring a prepaid solution to market under one roof, which helps us to deliver innovative solutions in a fraction of the usual time. By harnessing this flexibility, we are able to integrate loyalty and rewards schemes, member discounts, bespoke online accounts, multiple cards and other value-generating initiatives into a single solution, enabling our clients to increase their own member value as a result. We already have a variety of exciting solutions currently being implemented and we look forward to sharing more details on these in the coming weeks.”

“Large member associations can benefit greatly from bespoke, integrated card solutions,” adds Mike Fromant, Managing Director, Contis Group. “By creating value through payment, loyalty and rewards schemes designed around the interests of members, Oblong’s clients can boost member engagement, extend the longevity of their subscriber base and even drive greater cost efficiencies in their own operations. Oblong is known for its innovation in this sector so it makes perfect sense to marry their skills with ours; the result is a powerful combination of unconventional thinking and real technical agility. Product ideas can now be conceived, designed and brought to market in a matter of days. We’re very excited by the disruptive potential of this partnership.”

Contis and Oblong expect to deliver a series of announcements detailing successful customer implementations across a variety of vertical industries in the coming months.

The partnership with Oblong follows recent news of Contis’ corporate expansion and revenue growth. Also in June, the firm has announced annualised monthly compound annual growth rate of 202% between June 2012 and March 2014. Year on year revenue has increased by 93% in FY14 and management is forecasting further growth of 147% for financial year ending March 2015.

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South And Mid Wales Credit Unions Turn To credEcard To Support Members’ Financial Needs

June 18th, 2014

Credit unions drive maximum financial inclusion, step up the fight against unethical lending and prepare their members for Universal Credit

17 June 2014 – Eleven credit unions across South and Mid Wales, including Dragon Savers Credit Union (Treorchy), Lasa Credit Union (Swansea) and Neath Port Talbot Credit Union, are working hard to support local residents through tough financial times with the introduction of an online and mobile personal account facility that offers more to their members than any basic high-street current account.

Partnering with credEcard, the UK’s leading e-money personal account, Visa debit card and rewards programme, enables Welsh credit unions to achieve the maximum possible levels of financial inclusion by delivering an alternative to traditional bank services to members who can’t obtain a current account or simply wish to shun traditional banking facilities. The credEcard product also helps credit union members to control spending, pay bills on time and generate significant cashback amounts when they shop for groceries, and other everyday purchases.

Julie Mallinson, Business Development Manager at Neath Port Talbot Credit Union, comments: “In an area classified as ‘highly deprived’, we are one of the largest credit unions in South Wales  with almost 10,000 members. Local landlords are extremely concerned about welfare reform, especially the introduction of Universal Credit, which will see benefits delivered via one monthly electronic payment – a huge sea change from the current system. The fear is that benefit recipients will struggle to adapt, resulting in rental arrears, unpaid bills and further financial turmoil. credEcard is helping us to combat this. We receive our members’ benefit payments, manage their bills and then deposit the remaining funds in their respective credEcard accounts, for them to use day-to-day. Simple and effective.”

“Finding an ethical financial solution for our members was key,” adds Christina Stoneman, General Manager of Dragon Savers Credit Union. “The credEcard package has been specifically designed to support credit unions, helping us to give our members the flexibility to save regularly, keep an eye on daily spending and receive and ring-fence funds that are already committed to rent and other essential outgoings. In all, these new personal account facilities give users total control over their finances in a way they could not get before.”

The actions of the 11 credit unions in Wales reflect those of an increasing number of credit unions around the UK. In reaction to an impending ‘Universal Credit crisis’[1], a national total of 93 organisations including credit unions, housing associations and other support agencies are now issuing credEcard to members who, despite being excluded from the traditional banking system, will be required to obtain current account facilities in order to receive monthly benefit e-payments. As the new system rolls out, unbanked claimants will also be in critical need of the initiative’s free online budgeting tools, designed help them manage the sudden increase in personal financial responsibility that Universal Credit will impose.

Denis Greenall, Manager of Lasa Credit Union (Swansea) believes that educating members through initiatives like credEcard is vital: “Our support does not stop at loans, developing money management skills in our members enables them to manage their own payments in the future. To do this they need the right account facilities. The credEcard package delivers these in an ethical and transparent solution which is already greatly helping our members.”

Geoff Leech, Managing Director, credEcard, commented: “It is our mission to help credit union members get ‘more bank for their buck’. We work hard with all of our partners to achieve maximum financial inclusion for all by ensuring the product meets the needs of local residents. This helps users to mitigate the disruption that Universal Credit will bring and stay out of the clutches of predatory high-cost credit companies. Our aim has always been to deliver an ethical, low-cost and transparent tool for support agencies looking to give their members the help they deserve. Credit unions in Wales and all over the UK have realised the value of credEcard and are making use of its unique set of specially-designed features.”

By partnering with credEcard, housing associations and credit unions are able to support those they serve with budgeting tools and account facilities at no cost to them. Cardholders benefit from a personal account capable of monthly bill payments, money transfers, general purchases and ATM withdrawals and can also take advantage of the unique envelope facility budgeting tool, designed to help cardholders ring fence essential funds, such as care provision and utility bills, leaving the remainder of their monthly income free to spend or withdraw as cash.

[1] Contis Warns of Looming Crisis for Credit Unions following Citizen’s Advice Study 

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North London Credit Union Gives Local Residents ‘More Bank For Their Buck’

June 17th, 2014

Regional MPs lend support to credit union mission to steer community away from unethical lenders

17 June 2014 – North London Credit Union is supporting local residents with the introduction of an online and mobile personal account facility that offers more to their members than a basic high-street current account.

By working with credEcard, the UK’s leading e-money current account, Visa debit card and rewards programme, North London Credit Union is delivering online and mobile banking facilities that encourage its members to develop smart financial habits and enable them to control spending, pay bills on time and generate significant cashback when they shop for groceries and other everyday purchases.

Commenting on the benefits of credit unions offering e-money services to members, Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North said: “Many people who have tight budgets are finding prepaid cards a very useful thing to have. Having a payment card is almost mandatory for shopping these days, but having one that does not encourage you to run up debts is a very welcome development.”

The e-money product also enables North London’s ethical financial co-operative to achieve the maximum possible levels of financial inclusion by delivering an alternative financial solution to members who can’t obtain a current account or simply wish to shun traditional banks.

“A prepaid card is a great way for people to budget and manage their money simply and safely, in addition to buying things online,” comments Andy Love, Labour MP for Edmonton. “I’m pleased that the North London Credit Union, which services the whole of Enfield, is now able to offer the cards – it shows that credit unions are increasingly providing people with an ethical alternative to mainstream banking.”

Peter Lovell, CEO of North London Credit Union adds: “It is our job to help our members to develop money management skills so they can control their outgoings. To do this they need the right facilities and our partnership with credEcard is enabling us to deliver this. credEcard has been specifically designed for credit union members, helping them to save regularly, keep tabs on daily spending, receive and reallocate payments and ring-fence funds that are committed to rent and other essential outgoings. This simple and effective package will improve financial literacy and greatly help our members.”

The actions carried out by North London Credit Union reflect those of an increasing number of credit unions around the UK. Housing associations and other support agencies are now issuing credEcard to members who, despite being excluded from the traditional banking system, will be required to receive monthly benefit e-payments, in response to an impending ‘Universal Credit crisis’[1]. Unbanked claimants will also be in critical need of the initiative’s free online budgeting tools, designed to help them manage the sudden increase in personal financial responsibility that Universal Credit will impose.

“The government’s Universal Credit scheme is putting a lot of pressure on benefit recipients and their supporting institutions,” Geoff Leech, Managing Director, credEcard comments. “We are working hard with all of our partners to help them deliver bank-beating services to their members and we support the drive for maximum financial inclusion in order to mitigate the disruption caused by the onset of Universal Credit.

“Our mission is to deliver an ethical, low cost and completely transparent tool for support agencies seeking to give their members time to adjust to the new system. As Universal Credit rolls out, credit unions all over the country will be inundated with requests for financial assistance from their members. credEcard holders are able to manage their finances effectively and eliminate the risks of borrowing from predatory high-cost credit companies.”

By partnering with credEcard, housing associations and credit unions are able to support those they serve with budgeting tools and account facilities at no cost to them. Cardholders benefit from a personal account capable of monthly bill payments, standing orders, general purchases and ATM withdrawals and can also take advantage of the unique envelope facility budgeting tool, designed to help cardholders ring fence essential funds, such as care provision and utility bills, leaving the remainder of their monthly income free to spend or withdraw as cash.


[1] Contis Warns of Looming Crisis for Credit Unions following Citizen’s Advice Study 

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Diversification and Market Demand Drives Continued Growth for Contis Group

June 2nd, 2014

02 June 2014 - Contis Group, one of Europe’s leading e-money institutions, has posted impressive year-end growth figures following a period of corporate expansion and diversification, supported by continued demand from the growing global prepaid market and the addition of new products and services.

The company has built upon its platform and licensing developments in 2012, which gave Contis total end-to-end ownership of all implementation and programme management processes including an E-Money License covering all EU states and Principal Membership of Visa, to successfully position its  flagship divisions. Firstly, the company’s e-money current account, Visa debit  and rewards programme, credEcard, has continued to contract credit unions, housing associations and other welfare support providers as they move to support their members with ethical financial services.

Recently, Contis  launched its new flagship brand, The Gift & Loyalty Company to develop Contis’ successful activities in the closed and open gift card sector into an internationally positioned brand, dedicated to the development of disruptive gifting solutions in the changing world of retail, travel and entertainment. Finally, Contis Financial Services has demonstrated significant contract wins and  growth demand for its white label Visa products, with projects such as its Visa prepaid debit card in partnership with the Latvian National Airline, airBaltic, prepaid current account Ffrees and international haulage company TCS Ltd which have all delivered significant revenues since launch.

These factors have seen Contis grow its annualised monthly recurring revenue at a compound annual growth rate of 202% between June 2012 and March 2014. Expansion in the total number of prepaid accounts operating on Contis’ platform by 385% between June 2013 and March 2014 has contributed to this overall growth, in addition to the number of monthly prepaid transactions rocketing by 339% between January 2013 and March 2014. With year on year revenue having grown 93% for financial year 2014, management is forecasting  further growth of 147% for financial year ending March 2015.

Peter Cox, Executive Chairman of Contis Group, comments: “We have an aggressive growth plan for the next five years which includes further  expansion in the UK and Eastern Europe, following the launch of our Baltic HQ in Latvia. This activity will focus on Scandinavia, the Baltics and the CIS region where there is a proven demand for our bank-like card-based solution. Through our in-house development team we are continuing to deliver innovative products and services across a range of vertical markets and to further refine our current financial services  offering which continues to demonstrate its ability to deliver the services associated with traditional banking to people across Europe.

“This aggressive growth will require additional funding and we are working to secure a significant capital inflow which will place us in an even stronger position to take advantage of the ground swell of opportunities being presented to the Group and the rapidly growing prepaid sector.”

According to Capgemini, the prepaid card market is one of the fastest growing non-cash payment markets in the world with global, open loop prepaid card transaction volume growing at a 20%+ compound annual growth and is expected to reach 16.9 billion in 2014. The Boston Consulting Group expects the global prepaid market to reach $840 billion by 2017, with Europe expected to represent $156 billion.

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The Contis Group launches The Gift & Loyalty Company to Transform Gift Card Provider Market

May 29th, 2014

International organisation to challenge one-size-fits-all delivery models with express focus on bespoke, personalised and integrated gift and loyalty solutions

21 May, 2014 – The international market for gift cards, rewards and loyalty schemes faces considerable disruption today following the launch of The Gift & Loyalty Company, a major new brand intent on displacing ‘one-size-fits-all’ gift card, loyalty and reward providers globally, by designing and delivering entirely bespoke solutions for major retailers worldwide.

As part of the Contis Group of companies, The Gift & Loyalty Company will consolidate the group’s existing international business in this sector and seek aggressive growth driven through an express focus on furnishing tier-one retail brands around the world with custom built, flexible and versatile gift card and loyalty solutions.

“As the mobile, online and in-store services of retailers blend into a single, converged customer experience, the value-potential of gift and loyalty programmes is rocketing,” comments Dannie McDonald, Managing Director, The Gift & Loyalty Company. “A new, flexible and agile approach is required if brands are to fully capitalise on this potential. At present there are too many providers in this sector which, despite the incredible flexibility offered by today’s gift and loyalty platforms, remain content to deliver off-the-shelf and inflexible solutions that are, frankly,  out of date. The Gift and Loyalty Company is launching to challenge these preconceptions and demonstrate what can be achieved with an inventive, multichannel solution built on our next generation service platform.  We are already operating internationally and are trusted by some of the world’s biggest brands. As part of the Contis Group, a Principal Member of Visa and a major global force in payments technology group, we have both the resources and the technical ability to redefine this sector.”

The launch of The Gift & Loyalty Company reflects Contis Group’s continued drive to invest in solutions that redefine the markets they serve and create unique and was previously unachievable value for clients. The delivery of purpose built gift and loyalty solutions enable merchants in today’s hyper-connected and customer-centric market to personalise and deepen their relationships with customers, generate new revenue s and drive competitive differentiation.

“To succeed in today’s market, a brand’s gift and loyalty platform should give it the freedom to focus on its customers,” adds McDonald. “Only by understanding their motivations, aspirations and expectations can they create the truly enticing promotions which lead to extra profits. Too many promising brands are being strangled by their systems, unable to capitalise on customer trends because they can’t be fleet of foot. We solve these issues by designing a gift and loyalty programme that is based on each client’s unique commercial requirements and then applying our service platform that serves these specific objectives. Working in this way, we can ensure that everything is tuned to the needs of the client; nothing is redundant.”

The Gift and Loyalty Company will continue serve the Contis Group’s existing gift card customers, including Virgin, PizzaExpress and Le Pain Quotidien.

Mike Fromant, Managing Director, Contis Group comments: “Contis has grown and diversified considerably in recent years, offering Visa debit and prepaid payment cards, e-account facilities, payment processing services and corporate expense solutions for international companies. Our gift and loyalty offering has also grown and now commands the market differentiation it deserves.”

The UK Gift Card & Voucher Association estimates the UK gift card market alone to be worth £5bn per annum, with consumer sales of gift cards growing year on year by more than 7.5%. In Q3/13, the vast majority of retail gift card sales came from category-specific gift cards which made up 85% of the total, indicating that market demand for tailored solutions remains strong.

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AmEx & the unbanked – look to the UK for best practice

March 14th, 2014

I applaud AmEx’s recent initiative to use technology to help the plight of Amercia’s 70m underbanked citizens, but I do hope it knows that there’s no need to start from scratch. The work being done by e-money institutions in the UK, on the Visa platform in particular, to address the needs of the financially underserved is world beating.

UK programmes of this kind have been tremendously successful for a number of years and can provide a best practice blueprint for AmEx to follow.

Prepaid and debit products have been built in partnership with welfare support institutions like Credit Unions and Housing Associations, for example, offering bank-like payment facilities to those that that have been turned away by the traditional high street banks. The best of these deliver integrated loyalty and rewards schemes linked to value-driven retailers, enabling cash strapped cardholders to generate income from their spending.

But leveraging the right partnerships is just the tip of the iceberg. The flexibility of the e-money environment (of which AmEx is an important part) enables service providers to shape financial solutions to help groups of customers manage their funds in a way that suits their specific circumstances, including the unbanked. On this side of the pond, e- account platforms have already been created that that enable account holders to segregate committed outgoings for, say, rent and utilities, and store them in virtual ‘envelopes’, thus ensuring they remain untouched until their payments are due. This leaves remaining income easily accessible for groceries and other expenses, or to withdraw as cash from an ATM. These practices are already well established in Europe and could help AmEx circumvent years of research.

Finally, AmEx will also need to recognise that the unbanked cannot be addressed as a single market. State-by-state variations are acute, so the ability to apply appropriate segmentation will determine the initiative’s success in the US, probably more so than it would in the UK.  Assessing and prioritising those support agencies which have the greatest potential to effect change will also be central to the realisation of AmEx’s vision. These organisations truly understand the plight of the unbanked and will cast valuable light on the needs of those they serve. Only then will AmEx be able to develop solutions that are of true value.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this project. I’m quite sure that UK e-money providers would be happy to lend knowledge and expertise in support of this venture.

Posted in Blogs

T-Mobile’s ‘Mobile Money’ – where’s the added value?

January 29th, 2014

Last week, T-Mobile announced that it was ‘taking on the US banking market’ with a mobile app and a prepaid card. The story stated that the company was targeting this service at the 68 million Americans that do not have traditional banking accounts, many of whom rely on expensive alternatives like payday lenders. The account boasts no minimum balance requirement and no charge for activation, monthly maintenance, or for replacing lost or stolen cards.

Reading this story, I wonder if T-Mobile has missed a trick. It is widely accepted that consumers need more than just a new facility if they are to ‘go mobile’ with their financial behaviour and the provision of value added services (VAS) are commonly cited as the bonus that can trigger the change. Had T-Mobile taken the step to link their customers’ accounts to a rewards or incentives programme that would generate cash back and receive discounts at popular stores, as some of the best e-money providers do, its offer to this demographic would be enhanced greatly.

Prepaid cards are nothing new and the global e-money industry has been working tirelessly over the years to support the unbanked by providing a sustainable alternative to the recent flood of sub-prime financial providers, such as pay-day lenders. Waiving the fees is a good move but in the absence of additional incentives, it will be interesting to see how many people adopt the solution. Having invested the time, energy and money to bring this product to market, one wonders why they didn’t go the extra mile.

This is a project to keep an eye on. It will be interesting to see if T-Mobile publishes adoption figures in the months to come and also how it develops the solution in order to catch up with the most innovative and comprehensive prepaid providers in the market.

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