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    Blackhawk Network Adopts Visa ReadyLink Prepaid Load Network

    PLEASANTON, Calif. - Safeway subsidiary Blackhawk Network, a card-based financial solutions provider, yesterday signed an agreement with credit card company Visa to introduce Visa ReadyLink, Visa's Prepaid Load Network, to Blackhawk Network's alliance partner stores.

    PLEASANTON, Calif. - Safeway subsidiary Blackhawk Network, a card-based financial solutions provider, yesterday signed an agreement with credit card company Visa to introduce Visa ReadyLink, Visa's Prepaid Load Network, to Blackhawk Network's alliance partner stores.

    Safeway will be the first retailer in the Blackhawk Network alliance of 60,000 stores in North America to implement ReadyLink. Fifth Third Bank will serve as the acquiring financial institution.

    "Visa-branded prepaid cards are now one of the fastest growing categories in our alliance partner locations," said Don Kingsborough, president and c.e.o. of Blackhawk Network. "The new capability to load funds to all participating Visa reloadable prepaid cards in Blackhawk Network alliance stores will make these products even more relevant to our customers' daily life."

    According to Visa, the ReadyLink service allows consumers to more easily add funds to eligible Visa reloadable prepaid cards at participating retail locations - a program that is very popular among unbanked consumers. Visa estimates that there are approximately 80 million underserved consumers in the U.S. - those who lack access to a payment card or are without a traditional banking relationship. This consumer segment receives approximately $1 trillion in annual income and relies heavily on cash for everyday transactions.

    The introduction of the service to Safeway stores allows consumers to add funds to Visa reloadable prepaid cards at the retailer's 1,550 locations nationwide including participating Safeway, Carrs, Dominick's, Genuardi's, Pak 'n Save, Pavilions, Randalls, Vons, and Tom Thumb stores.

    While direct deposit is the primary method many cardholders use to fund Visa reloadable prepaid cards, Visa research shows consumers also want the flexibility to add funds to their cards at everyday shopping locations, like supermarkets and drug stores.

    Cardholders can begin adding funds to participating Visa reloadable prepaid cards at Safeway stores in mid-December 2006.

    Blackhawk Network, a subsidiary of Safeway Inc., is a prepaid and payments network, and the largest provider of third-party prepaid cards. It develops products in easy-to-use formats and delivers them to consumers through an exclusive retail network of grocery, mass, convenience, drug and specialty retailers. The network includes more than 60,000 store fronts and reaches more than 135 million consumers each week.

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