Title:
System for electronic re-allocation of a transaction amount to an investment
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This system may include a system for electronically reallocating any portion of a transaction by maintaining a user account at a user institution; maintaining a vendor account at a vendor institution; maintaining a user account at a trust institution; initiating a transaction for the transaction amount; electronically distributing the transaction amount from said user account to said vendor account; and electronically distributing at least a portion of the transaction amount from the vendor account to the user account at the trust institution, wherein the portion of the transaction amount in the user account at the trust institution is placed in an investment vehicle. The system of the present invention may further comprise providing an interactive information source between the user and the trust institution, whereby the trust institution can provide information (current or historical) to the user regarding the portion of the transaction amount placed in the investment vehicle.



Inventors:
Palmeri, Richard P. (West Palm Beach, FL, US)
Application Number:
12/454099
Publication Date:
12/24/2009
Filing Date:
05/12/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
G06Q20/00; G06Q30/00; G06Q40/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
POINVIL, FRANTZY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JOHN H. FARO, ESQ. AND FARO & ASSOCIATES (MIAMI, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for electronically reallocating a portion of a transaction amount in a transaction between a user and a vendor, comprising the steps of: A. Providing a system having (1). at least one user account controlled by a purchaser of goods and/or services; (2) at least one vendor account, which includes information relating to a pre-arrangement for sale of goods and/or services to said user account, wherein said pre-arrangement provides a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, applicable to said sale of said goods and/or services to said user account; and (3) at least one user trust account for the benefit of said purchaser, a beneficiary of said purchaser or a designee of said purchaser; B. Initiating a transaction by said purchaser access of said vendor account, pursuant to said pre-arrangement between said purchaser and said vendor, for purchase of goods and/or services for said user account, whereby a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, is electronically calculated, and the amount of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof thereafter transferred or credited, to said trust account;

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the amount of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, is transferred or credited, from said vendor account to said trust account.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the amount of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, is transferred or credited, from said user account to said trust account.

4. The method according to claim 1, wherein said system includes a pre-arrangement which provides said user account payment for said purchases by means of cash or electronic payment, wherein said payment means is selected from the group consisting essentially of cash, wire transfer, debit card, credit card, charge card and any combination thereof.

5. The method according to claim 1, wherein said system includes a pre-arrangement which provides for access of said purchaser to said vendor account, based upon said purchaser affiliation with an entity selected from the group consisting essentially of a professional organization, a political organization, a religious organization, a governmental organization, an employer and any combination thereof.

6. The method according to claim 1, wherein said system includes a pre-arrangement which provides said trust account to be affiliated with said payment means.

7. The method according to claim 6, wherein said trust account is maintained by a company which services said credit card.

8. The method according to claim 6, wherein said trust account is maintained by a company which services said debit card.

8. The method according to claim 6, wherein said trust account is maintained by a company which services said charge card.



9. The method according to claim 1, wherein said trust account is professionally managed by an investment company or advisor or mutual fund.

10. The method according to claim 1, wherein said system includes means for electronic verification of identity of an individual having access to said user account and/or to said trust account, said electronic verification means selected from the group consisting of a personal identification number (PIN), a biometrically unique characteristic of said user and any combination thereof.

11. A method for electronically reallocating a portion of a transaction amount in a transaction between a user and a vendor, comprising the steps of: A. Providing a system having (1). at least one user account, which is controlled by a purchaser of goods and/or services, which account includes a pre-arrangement relating to purchase of goods and/or services from a vendor, wherein said pre-arrangement provides a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, applicable to said sale of said goods and/or services to said user account from said vendor; (2) at least one vendor account which, pursuant to a pre-arrangement with a user account, accords a purchaser a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, for purchase of said goods and/or services for said user account; and (3) at least one user trust account for the benefit of said purchaser, a beneficiary of said purchaser or a designee of said purchaser; B. Initiating a transaction, pursuant to said pre-arrangement, between a purchase and vendor, for purchase of goods and/or services for said user account, whereby a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, is electronically calculated, and the amount of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof thereafter transferred or credited, to a said trust account;

12. The method according to claim 11, wherein the amount of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, is transferred or credited, from said vendor account to said trust account.

13. The method according to claim 11, wherein the amount of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, is transferred or credited, from an account of said user to said trust account.

14. The method according to claim 11, wherein said system includes a pre-arrangement which provides for said user account payment for said purchases by means of cash or electronic payment, wherein said payment means is selected from the group consisting essentially of cash, wire transfer, debit card, credit card, charge card and any combination thereof.

15. The method according to claim 11, wherein said system includes a pre-arrangement which provides for access of said purchaser to said user account, based upon said purchaser affiliation with an entity selected from the group consisting essentially of a professional organization, a political organization, a religious organization, a governmental organization, an employer and any combination thereof.

16. The method according to claim 11, wherein said system includes a pre-arrangement which provides said trust account to be affiliated with said payment means.

17. The method according to claim 16, wherein said trust account is maintained by a company which services said credit card.

18. The method according to claim 16, wherein said trust account is maintained by a company which services said debit card.

18. The method according to claim 16, wherein said trust account is maintained by a company which services said charge card.



19. The method according to claim 11, wherein said trust account is professionally managed by an investment company or advisor.

20. The method according to claim 11, wherein said system includes means for electronic verification of identity of an individual having access to said user account and/or to said trust account, said electronic verification means selected from the group consisting of a personal identification number (PIN), a biometrically unique characteristic of said user and any combination thereof.

21. A system for electronically reallocating a portion of a transaction amount in a transaction between a user and a vendor, comprising: A. A user account having accessible transaction information, specific for said user, for effecting purchase of goods and/or services, by interaction with a vendor account; B. A vendor account having accessible transaction information, (1) specific for goods and/or services of said vendor, and (2) which identifies purchasers to whom said vendor accords a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, for purchase of said goods and/or services, from said vendor account; C. Means for initiation of a transaction by a purchaser between said user account and said vendor account for purchase of goods and/or services from said vendor account for said user account; D. Means for vendor account computation of a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, based upon accessible information in said user account, for said user account purchase of goods and/or services from said vendor account; and E. Means for electronically calculating said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, based upon accessible transaction information within said vendor account, and, thereafter, transferring or crediting a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, to a said trust account, based upon said transaction information in said user account and said wherein said at least one of (1) said interacting between said user account and said vendor account, (2) said calculating of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, based upon transaction information within said vendor account and/or 3) transferring or crediting said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, to a said trust account, for benefit of a purchaser, his beneficiary or his designee, is effected by means of an electronic transaction processing unit associated with said user account, by an electronic transaction processing unit associated with said vendor account and/or by an electronic transaction processing unit associated with said trust account.

22. The system according to claim 21, wherein an electronic transaction processing unit within said user account, includes information relative to a pre-arrangement relating to purchase of goods and/or services from a vendor, wherein said pre-arrangement provides a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, applicable to said sale of said goods and/or services, to said user account from said vendor,

23. The system according to claim 21, wherein an electronic transaction processing unit within said vendor account, includes information relative to a pre-arrangement relating to goods and/or services for sale to said user account, wherein said pre-arrangement provides a rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, applicable to said sale of said goods and/or services to said user account.

24. The system according to claim 21, wherein an electronic transaction processing unit within said trust account, includes information relative to management of said rebate, discount, credit or cash equivalent thereof, in accordance with user account investment objectives.

25. The system according to claim 21, wherein said user account transaction information includes data relative to said user account payment for purchases by means of cash or electronic payment, wherein said payment means is selected from the group consisting essentially of cash, wire transfer, debit card, credit card, charge card and any combination thereof.

26. The system according to claim 21, wherein said user account transaction information includes data relative to said purchaser affiliation with an entity selected from the group consisting essentially of a professional organization, a political organization, a religious organization, a governmental organization, an employer and any combination thereof.

27. The system according to claim 21, including means for electronic verification of identity of an individual having access to said user account and/or to said trust account, said electronic verification means selected from the group consisting essentially of a personal identification number (PIN), a biometrically unique characteristic of said user and any combination thereof.

28. A point of sale system, which includes the automatic transfer of funds to a designated savings account of a purchaser, or his beneficiary or his designee, based upon the cost and/or price of said goods and/or services, wherein said system comprises: a. A pre-arrangement between a purchaser and a provider of said goods and/or services, wherein said purchaser is to receive a discount, rebate and/or credit, at the time of purchase, based upon a unit price, value of sale, number of units of said purchased of goods and services, and any combination thereof; b. Means for effecting a transaction by said purchaser with a provider of said goods and/or services at a specified price, unit volume and any combination thereof; c. Means for calculating a cash equivalent of a discount, rebate and/or credit, based upon said price to said purchaser, in accordance with said pre-arrangement between said purchaser and said provider, based upon a unit price, value of sale, number of units of said purchased of goods and services, and any combination thereof; and d. Means for transfer of said cash equivalent of a discount, rebate and/or credit to a managed account for the said purchaser or his designee or his beneficiary.

29. A point of sale system, which includes the automatic transfer of funds to a designated savings account of a purchaser, or his beneficiary or his designee, based upon the cost and/or price of said goods and/or services, wherein said system comprises: a. A pre-arrangement between a purchaser and a source of funds for effecting a transaction between a purchaser and a vendor of goods and/or services; b. Means for effecting a transaction by said purchaser with a vendor of said goods and services, at a specified price, unit volume and any combination thereof; c. Calculating a cash equivalent of a mark-up to said price of said goods and services to said purchaser, based upon a unit price and/or cost of said goods and/or services, which is paid for by said purchaser and/or debited to a charge, or credit account of said purchaser; and c. Means for transfer of said cash equivalent of said mark-up to a managed account for said purchaser of or his designee or his beneficiary.

30. A point of sale system, which includes the automatic transfer of funds to a designated saving account of a purchaser, or his beneficiary or his designee, based upon the cost and/or price of said goods and/or services, wherein said system comprises: a. A pre-arrangement between a purchaser and at least one third party to a commercial transaction, for the purchase of goods and/or services from a vendor, wherein said third party is selected from the group consisting of a vendor of goods and/or services, a source of funds for payment of said vendor for such goods and/or services and any combination thereof; b. Means for effecting a transaction by said purchaser with a vendor of said goods and services, so as to generate a cash equivalent of a discount, rebate, credit and/or mark-up in favor of said purchaser, based upon a unit price and/or cost of said goods and/or services, which is paid for by said purchaser and/or debited to a charge, or credit account of said purchaser; c. Means for transfer of said cash equivalent of a discount, rebate, credit and/or mark-up to a managed account for said purchaser of or his designee or his beneficiary.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a Continuation in part of co-pending patent application Ser. No. 78,085, filed May 24, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a system for automatically re-allocating at least a portion of a transaction amount to an investment system, at a point of sale, particularly to a system for diverting a portion of a transaction amount to a user trust for investment for the benefit of the user, and more particularly to a system for diverting a portion of a transaction amount to a tax advantaged user investment trust, to grow the funds for the benefits of the user or a designated beneficiary after a set gestation period.

2. Description of the Prior Art

The art has become increasingly crowded over the past several years with respect to savings plans, specifically savings plan implemented through debit, credit and/or charge cards. These plans, without exception, are based upon the realization that individuals lack the discipline to actively or purposefully save for identifiable needs (e.g. college education, wedding receptions, retirement, etc.); and, often have to resort to borrowing from a bank or securing funds through an home equity line of credit (HELOC). All too often, the best intentions to save for that special occasions or goal necessarily gives way to some other financial need, thereby postponing, often indefinitely, the accumulation of funds sufficient to meet the individuals future needs.

This is particularly true of individuals whose disposable income is devoted to paying for the necessities of life, and/or who are not accustomed to managing their finances; and cannot afford not to save enough to supplement their social security and thereby fail to achieve any degree of financial security or independence. More recently individuals have become accustomed to the realization that private pension plans and social security will probably be inadequate to permit an uninterrupted continuation of their life style upon retirement. Accordingly, with tax incentive and other government prompting, intervals and the companies, for whom they are employed, have adopted one or more tax advantage plans to accumulate savings, and defer taxes thereon, until some time after retirement when their tax bracket is lower than at the time of accumulation of their savings in a tax advantage plan. These tax advantaged plans thereby provide a pro-active savings discipline, and typically include many of the more common IRAs, 401 Ks and the like.

In order to capitalize on this trend, financial institution, (e.g. banks, mutual funds, insurance companies), have created a number of traditional vehicles to assist in the accumulation of savings without having to consciously direct income to a savings account. Historically, one of the more popular of these savings vehicles is whole life insurance that accumulates cash surrender value; and, annuities which appreciate over time before withdrawal at a later date. In each instance, the growth of the savings component of each of these vehicles is deferred—that is taxed at a later date upon maturity or when the individual retires and begins to draw upon the fund for his retirement income. These tax advantaged systems also require a pro-active or disciplined approach to savings; and, all to often an individual participating in one or more of these pro-active plans may discontinue his periodic contribution and/or allow his insurance policy to lapse.

In addition, there has been increasing number of non-traditional savings vehicles which have been proposed and implement, incident to some other activity involving every day shopping related transactions,—so-called “point of sale” savings plans which have been implemented by credit and debit card issuers. Representative non-traditional savings vehicles are described and claimed in one or more of the following published U.S. patents applications: US 2003/0050889, (to Burke, published Mar. 13, 2003); US 2004/0153400 (to Burke, published Aug. 5, 2004); US 2005/0167483 (to Burke, published Aug. 4, 2005); US 2006/0206420 (to Burke, published Sep. 14, 2006); US 2006/0122923 (to Burke, published Jan. 8, 2006); US 2007/0094130 (to Burke, published Aug. 26, 2007).

A number of these of non-traditional savings vehicles is represented in the following list of issued U.S. patents: U.S. Pat. No. 6,088,682 (to Burke, issued Jul. 11, 2000); U.S. Pat. No. 6,876,971 (to Burke, issued Apr. 5, 2005); and U.S. Pat. No. 7,502,758 (to Burke, issued Mar. 10, 2009).

According to the concepts defined by Burke in his pending patent applications and issued patents, a transaction is contemplated wherein a purchaser of goods and/or services, agrees, in advance, to some arrangement with a party to the transaction, to a an excess payment or charge for a given transaction (e.g. rounding up the transaction to next dollar amount). In this arrangement, the purchaser designates that this excess payment or charge is to be applied to an account for his own benefit, or to the account of another (e.g. a charity). Where the excess payment is applied to the benefit of the purchaser, the excess payment is accumulated in a savings account, preferable within the same institution which makes the payment, specifically, the issuer of the credit or debit card. Where the excess payment is applied to the benefit of another, the excess payment is accumulated and distributed to the third party.

The preferred mechanism for operation of the Burke system involves the “rounding up” of the transaction amount to a figure, which represents the cost of the purchase, plus an additional amount, based upon the next higher dollar charge. For example, in the Burke system, a point of sale transaction, at a purchase price of $1.25, is rounded up to $2.00, by the addition of $0.75 to the purchase price, or next higher dollar amount. This $0.75 addition to the purchase price, or the “round up” amount, is transferred by the credit or debit card issuer to a savings account in the same financial institution which issues the credit of debit card, (e.g. Bank of America “keep the change” program). In one or more of the alternative embodiments of the Burke concepts, the purchaser can also designate an amount or percentage to be added to the purchase price, and this designated amount or percentage plus the purchase price debited to the purchaser's account. The designated amount or percentage mark-up is transferred to a savings account or to the account of a third party. This alternative embodiment of the Burke concept is also referred to as based upon a “rounding up” mechanism.

The foregoing patent collection is by no means exhaustive or complete. What all of these non-traditional systems have in common is the appreciation of the need for passive savings mechanism, and the adaptation of this system to mundane (every day) shopping related transactions. Unfortunately, the Burke related inventions are indeed limited by the fact that each operates from the perspective of a financial institution, (typically a credit or charge card processor); and, purports to make an unspecified savings contribution to a purchaser account, that is unrelated to the purchasers savings objectives, or to dollar value of transaction in which the purchaser is involved. Accordingly, in Burke, the complexity of the transaction, or system used to implement this transaction, is both relative simple and inflexible, and otherwise devoid of professional management and controls.

In summary, the pro-active approach to accumulation of savings requires both discipline, and some insulation of the savings from invasion and/or periodic interruption. Unfortunately, this pro-active approach is subject to shifting economic needs and income variation. More specifically, oftentimes the more immediate financial needs of an individual or his family are given priority to an individual's more long term financial goals and objectives. Similar deficiencies exist with respect to the passive savings systems described by Burke, and his contemporaries. The principle deficiency in the Burke approach is that it treats all purchasers as if they are the same, and all purchases, as if the value thereof, is immaterial to the savings potential, or savings objectives of the purchaser's account.

Accordingly there continues to exist a need for a system and method to both accumulate savings on a regular/periodic interval, that is relatively immune from fluctuations in income, and compatible with the priorities of the day to day needs. In order for such a system to be effective, it must also provide a passive, and unobtrusive mechanism for directing a savings contribution from a number of sources that are frequented by an individual in his daily routine or life style. Moreover, such a system, to have truly universal appeal, must provide meaningful savings accumulation; and, be both flexible and purchaser directed.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

It is the object of this invention to remedy the above, as well as related deficiencies in the prior art.

More specifically, it is the principle object of this invention to provide a system for the passive contribution of funds to a managed account for the benefit of the account owner, or his designee or beneficiary.

It is also an object of this invention to provide a system for allocation of funds from a transaction between a purchaser and a vendor

It is also another object of this invention to provide a system for the passive contribution of funds from more than one source, to a managed account for the benefit of the account owner, or his designee or beneficiary.

It is still yet another object of this invention to provide a system for the passive contribution of funds from more than one source to a managed account, wherein the contribution to such account is based upon a rebate, discount, credit or a cash equivalent value, for a purchase of product or service.

It is still yet a further object of this invention to provide a system for the passive contribution of funds from more than one source to a managed account, wherein the contribution to such account is based upon an agreement or pre-arrangement with a vendor or a product and/or service, based upon the number of units of product purchased, value of the products purchased and any combination thereof.

Additional objects of this invention include a method for passively directing the contribution of funds to a managed account wherein one of more the manipulative steps are performed through interactive computer based routines that are resident in participating vendors, financial institutions (which supply the funds for product and service purchase) a managed fund or account (which may be resident at the same financial institution that provides the funds for the product and/or service purchase). Under the appropriate circumstances, an individual may perform one of more the manipulative steps to effect the calculation of the sales amount, the computation of the rebate, discount and/or credit, and the transfer or crediting the managed account with the amount of the rebate, discount and/or credit.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a system by which individual subscribers of users can have a portion of a transaction, with any one of a number of participating vendors, reallocated to a trust organization to invest and grow, without the need for additional direct contribution from the user. The system of this invention is based upon a pre-existing agreement or arrangement between a subscriber or user of the system, a participating vendor and a trust account manager. At the point of sale of goods and/or services by a participating vendor to a system subscriber or user, the vendor accords the purchaser a price concession, in the nature of a “discount” or “rebate” or the cash equivalent thereof, that is transferred by the subscriber's designated financial resource (debit or credit card), or by the vendor of the goods and/or services, to an account for the benefit of the subscriber or user, his beneficiary or his designee. This account is professional managed by a professional financial manager.

Accordingly, this system may includes a passive mechanism for electronically reallocating a portion of a transaction by maintaining any number of user accounts at a user institution; maintaining any number of vendor accounts at a vendor institution; maintaining a number of user accounts at a trust institution; initiating a transaction for the transaction amount; electronically distributing the transaction amount from said user account to said vendor account; and electronically distributing at least a portion of the transaction amount from the vendor account to the user account at the trust institution, wherein the portion of the transaction amount in the user account at the trust institution is placed in an investment vehicle.

The system of the present invention may further comprise providing an interactive information source between the user and the trust institution, whereby the trust institution can provide information (current or historical) to the user regarding the portion of the transaction amount placed in the investment vehicle, other vendor information, and possibly direct advertising by vendors to customers.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a preferred embodiment of the operation of the system present invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating a second preferred embodiment of the operation of the system the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating the preferred embodiment of the interactive information source of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION INCLUDING PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention will be understood more fully from the detailed description given below, and from the accompanying drawings of preferred embodiments of the invention. It is understood that the preferred embodiments of the invention are provided as illustrative of the invention; and, that alternative means for implementation thereof, are both contemplated and possible, without departure from substance and spirit thereof.

Preliminary to a discussion of the accompanying Figures, it is helpful to first define a number of the terms and phrases that are descriptive of the various functions of each interactive component thereof at each stage, and/or the manipulative step, in the process, for automatic electronic (passive) accumulation of saving in a managed account of a purchaser of various goods and services.

1. Definitions

As used throughout this application, and in the claims which follow, the terms and phrases set forth hereinafter are intended to be interpreted consistent with the following meanings ascribed thereto.

A “User” of the system of this invention is typically a subscriber to group purchasing service, specifically, a customer of goods and services. A “User” can be an individual or commercial client. Within the context of this invention, the User has established a managed account (e.g. trust), and pre-arrange with participating vendors and/or financial institutions, with whom it has a relationship, to make automatic electronic contributions to the managed account. The automatic electronic contribution is made incident to such User purchasing goods and/or services from a Vendor, and the payment for such purchase with either cash or electronic means (e.g. wire transfer, debit card, credit card, charge card). These latter attributes of the User are included within the phrase “User Institutions”

A “Vendor” is a provider of goods and/or services which are purchased by a “User”, preferably, in the course of his daily life and/or in the normal operation of its business. In the context of this invention, the Vendor has established a preferred pricing schedule or structure for the User of the system of this invention, which is not ordinarily available to the general public. This pricing preference accorded to the system User can be in the nature of a “rebate” or a “discount” of a portion of the price advertised to the general public.

“Vendor Processor” is a means for vendor verification of the User identity to permit access of the User to the Vendor goods and services. The Vendor Processor may also have additional information relative to a particular User, such as affiliation (e.g. union membership, professional affiliation, etc.), and financial consideration (rebates, discounts, credits, etc.) to be accorded the User in his purchase of goods and service from the Vendor. The Vendor Processor, thus, functions as gate keeper, only permitting authorized communication between one or more Users, having similar affiliations, and the Vendor. These latter attributes of the Vendor are referred to as “Vendor Institutions”.

“Transaction Information” comprises electronically accessible data relative to a purchaser, vendor and trust, which is set forth in a pre-arrangement or agreement between the parties to a transaction, and includes identity specific information, payment specific information and information relative to management of a trust account. The phrase “Transaction Information” within the context of this invention, thus, is a set of instructions that is resident within one or more of the discrete modules associated with a transaction processing routine that coordinates the flow of payments, goods and/or services and rebates, discounts etc., between the modular entities of the system, to accomplish the desired transaction, concurrent with the automatic (electronic) allocation of transfer of a portion of the Vendor's advertised or list price (rebate) from a user account (e.g. checking, or savings account), to a professional managed trust account.

“Transaction Processing Unit” comprises a data processing function, which is resident within each of the User and Vendor Institution, for access and exchange of information between each of said User and said Vendor, to verify both the purchase of the goods and/or services by the User from the Vendor, the amount or value of the transaction, and that portion of the transaction amount that is to be “allocated” to a managed account for the benefit of the User. This amount or the value of the transaction, includes a vendor “mark-up” on its cost, a portion of which is “rebated”, as an automatic electronic contribution, to a Trust, under terms established by the purchaser or user, with a professional investment manager or mutual fund.

“Transaction” contemplates, within the context of this invention, a completed sale between a purchaser and a vendor, and an automatic electronic contribution, to a Trust, for the benefit of the purchaser, his beneficiary or his designee.

“Transaction Amount” includes, within the context of this invention, the amount of the funds transferred to the vendor for the purchase of goods and/or services, and an automatic electronic contribution, to a Trust, for the benefit of the purchaser, his beneficiary or his designee. The electronic contribution to the Trust can be included in the payment to the Vendor, or forwarded by an account of the purchase, (the same source of payment for the goods and/or services), to the Trust.

2. Preferred Embodiments

FIG. 1 illustrates a preferred embodiment of the system of the present invention, independent of the particular transaction medium or environment, e.g., a physical retail store, an Internet Web site, etc. User 1, having some token representing his/her available funds, such as User Credit 2, User Debit 3, or User Cash 4, wishes to make a purchase from Vendor 5.

While FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of the present invention using a single User Institution and Account, Vendor Institution and Account, and Trust Institution and Account, it will be appreciated that the present invention can be implemented with multiple users, vendors, and trust institutions, and multiple accounts at these institutions simultaneously. It will also be appreciated to those of skill in the art that while the present invention is being described in connection with conventional credit cards, debit card, and electronic cash, it is not limited thereto and can be used with any system for identifying a user and transferring funds. For example, biometrics based authentication systems (such as thumb scanners and the like), or an identification card (such as a driver's license and the like), could be used to verify user identify, while cash or paper check is used to complete the transaction.

In order to complete the transaction and receive funds from User 1, Vendor 5 uses Vendor Processor 6, allowing User 1 to purchase and obtain Item 7 from the Vendor. For example, if User 1 is purchasing Item 7 at a conventional “brick and mortar” location, such as retail store, Vendor Processor 6 may comprise a conventional credit/debit card reader, the operation of which is well known to those in the art, in a traditional “point of sale” environment. It will be appreciated to those of skill in the art that Item 7 may comprise not only physical products, but financial products (such as mortgages), electronic products (such as computer software), or services (such as service agreements). As another example, if User 1 is purchasing Item 7 from Vendor 5 via an Internet Web site, Vendor Processor 6 may comprise a system of computer servers, and associated software (not shown) either controlled directly Vendor 5, or by another Vendor contracted to handled Internet based credit card and electronic cash transactions. If a cash or check is used for the transaction, Vendor Processor 6 may comprise, for example, a thumb scanner or card reader. The operation of Internet based credit card and electronic cash transactions is well-known to those of skill in the art, (an “inter active” web site), and will not be elaborated on specifically here. Additional information relating to such processing can be obtained on the Internet from any of the major credit card organizations, such as at www.visa.com or www.mastercard.com, the contents of which sites are hereby incorporated by reference herein.

In the preferred embodiment of the system of the present invention, Vendor 5 uses Vendor Processor 6 to communicate with User Institution 8 and the Vendor's Institution 9. At least Vendor Institution 9, and possibly User Institution 8 are also in communication with Trust Institution 10, as discussed in more detail below.

User Institution 8 may include a User Account Manager 11, a Money Transfer System 12, User Account 13, and Transaction Processing Unit 14, or any other arrangement of similar components to perform the tasks described in more detail below. User Institution 8 may comprise a credit card company, for example, which has previously established User Account 13 for extending credit to User 1. Alternatively, User Institution 8 may comprise the user's own bank, where the user may have previously established an account, such as a savings, checking, or money market account, for which the user has been provided a debit card for electronically withdrawing funds from that account.

User Institution 8 may even comprise a “Virtual Bank” or electronic cash provider, (such as DigiCash™ or CyberCash™), through which User 1 has obtained digital coins, representing the equivalent of cash. When User 1 uses these tokens, a record of the transaction is recorded in User Account 13, even though the tokens are passed directly to Vendor Institution 9. The operation of electronic cash systems are also well known to those in the art.

User Account Manager 11 is responsible for maintaining the user's account, and may include all of the well known sub-units required therefor, such as a statement processing unit, a transaction management unit, a customer information unit (which maintains a customer information database), and a customer service unit for interacting with the user. These components may comprise, for example, a system of computers, processing software and database applications. The operation of an account manager, and the sub components thereof, is also well known to those in the art, such as are resident in electronic transaction processing systems for retail outlets, and, in account management systems of professional investment managers.

The user institution's Money Transfer System 12 may comprise any number of well known systems for processing electronic funds transfers, such as a conventional wire transfer system, EDI (electronic data interchange) or VAN (value added networks). These well known, conventional systems are regularly used by banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions to safely and securely transfer fund electronically among them. These systems regularly employ high-level cryptography to securely encode the financial information transmitted there between. Communication to and from Money Transfer System 12 is not particularly limited, and may include, for example the use of analog and digital telephone lines, the Internet, and secure private networks.

Processing of User Account 13, (e.g. debiting funds, reducing available credit, recording electronic cash transfer, identifying the user), is handled by Transaction Processing Unit 14, which is in communication with User Account 13, Money Transfer System 12 and User Account Manager 11. Transaction Processing Unit 14 is responsible processing the transaction on the user's end. Transaction Processing Unit may include the appropriate personnel and data processing equipment (not shown) for processing the transaction for the user. Again, the operation of the actual transaction processing is well known in the art.

Similarly to User Institution 8, Vendor Institution 9 may include Vendor Account Manager 16, a Money Transfer System 15, User Account 18, and Transaction Processing Unit 17, or any other arrangement of comparable and equivalent components, to perform the tasks described in more detail below. For example, User Account 18 may comprise the vendor's own merchant account, which may be in communication with the vendor's checking or other business account or accounts. Trust Institution 10 may include its own User Account Manager 19, User Account 20, Transaction Processing Unit 21, Money Transfer System 22, and Trust Manager 23 or any other arrangement of similar components to perform the tasks described in more detail below. Trust Institution 10 places at least a portion of the funds in trust User Account 19 in Investment Vehicle 24.

User Account 20 is preferably a separate account for User 1, which is maintained by User Account Manager 19, and the overall Trust Manager 23 for the direct benefit of User 1, although not necessarily limited thereto. The funds from trust User Account 20 may be placed in Investment Vehicle 24 individually by trust User Account Manager 19, or collectively as a pool of trust assets. Placement of assets may also be managed in part directly by Trust Manager 23. It will be appreciated that User Account Manager 19 and overall Trust Manager 23 may also be the same unit.

Investment Vehicle 24 may comprise any number of investment vehicles and investment organizations well known to those in the art and to the general public. For example, Investment Vehicle 24 may include one or more of selected industry growth funds, mutual funds, managed stock portfolios, and the like. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the investment and growth of the funds in the trust User Account 20 is handled by an organization within Investment Vehicle 24, and not directly by Trust Institution 10, also both are possible under the invention.

Information on the progress of the funds in the trust may be provided to User 1 from Trust Institution 10 by User Account Manager 19. This may be accomplished through any number of well-known mechanisms, such as a monthly, quarterly, or annual statement (either in paper or electronic form), or through the use of interactive portal, such as an Internet Web site or a Kiosk system. Information from Trust Institution 10 may be provided to Vendor 5 in a similar manner, to confirm a contribution to such Trust. Use of such mechanisms to provide information to User 1 from User Institution 8 is currently in practice by banks, credit card companies and e-cash providers, most of which provide a fully interactive Web site for viewing accounts, making payments, and inquiring as to transactions.

The embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1 operates as follows: User 1 wishes to purchase item 7 from Vendor 5, and presents (either physically, if in a “brick and mortar” store, or electronically, if online) his/her cash payment or credit, debit or charge card to make the purchase. Vendor 5 can either record the cash payment, or processes the card, such as by swiping it through a card reader. This set of events begins the electronic Transaction Processing. The sale price of Item 7, for purposes of this example is arbitrarily set to $20. Vendor Processor 6 then contacts Money Transfer Systems 12 and 15 at User Institution 8 and Vendor Institution 9, respectively. Of course, it will be appreciated that in some circumstances a single money transfer system may be employed. For example, User Institution 8 and Vendor Institution 9 may be the same organization, or may use the same Wire Transfer Service or EDI VAN.

Under a pre-existing arrangement with Trust Institution 10, (as configured by the purchaser), Vendor 5 has agreed to allocate a portion of the sale price of item 7 (e.g. discount)—in this example arbitrarily set to $1—to User Account 20 under the care of Trust Institution 10. In an alternative embodiment of the invention, User Institution 8 and/or User 1 may also have arranged to directly allocate a separate portion of User Account 13 to the trust User Account 20 for investment. For example, a parent may want to match a portion of purchases made on behalf of their children (or simply their own purchases) to the trust account for the benefit of those children. Or, User 1 may want to directly allocate a preset small amount of his/her own funds into the trust as a retirement vehicle at the time of each purchase from a Vendor. Alternatively, credit card companies may be given incentives to allocate a portion of interest proceeds on purchases to the trust account with each purchase. However, for purposes of this description of the preferred embodiment, the amount contributed from User Institution 8 is $0. Money Transfer System 12 forwards the request for a $20 transfer of funds from User Institution 8 to Transaction Processing Unit 14. Transaction Processing Unit 14 processes the transaction, electronically withdrawing the funds (as in the case of a debit card), or processing the transaction for credit (as in the case of a credit card), or recording the transfer (as in the case of participating electronic cash services. Transaction Processing Unit 14 communicates this information to User Account Manager 11 in a conventional manner.

Thereafter, Transaction Processing Unit 14 sends the entire $20 sale price to Vendor Institution 9. Transaction Processing Unit 17 may credit Vendor Account 18 for the full $20, and thereafter debit $1 for deposit in trust User Account 20 by the means previously described. Or, Transaction Processing Unit 17 may only credit $19 of the $20 to Vendor Account 18, and directly forward the remaining $1 to Trust Institution 10. Alternatively, Transaction Processing Unit 14 sends $19 of the $20 through Money Transfer System 12 to Vendor Institution 9, and sends $1 of the $20 to Trust Institution 10 via Money Transfer System 22. Money Transfer System 22, may, of course, be the same as either Money Transfer System 12 or 15, as previously described. This $1 deposit is credited to trust User Account 20. The remaining $19 is credited to Vendor Account 18 by Transaction Processing Unit 17 in Vendor Institution 9.

In the case of electronic cash, Vendor Processor 6 sends a request to the user's “cyberwallet”, for the transfer of electronic “coins” to the Vendor Institution 9. Each electronic coin is actually a computer file containing specially encrypted coding, which identifies the specific denomination of the “coin” and User Institution 8. Transaction Processing Unit 14 is capable of generating and authenticating the electronic coins.

A cyberwallet is actually a software application that organizes and maintains the user's coins. The cyberwallet could be located on the user's own computer, or could reside on another machine found elsewhere, such as with User Institution 8 directly. After the request is received by the user's cyberwallet, the electronic coins are then sent to Vendor Institution 9. When Vendor Institution 9 receives the coins, it then sends a request to User Institution 8 to authenticate and validate the coins value, in this case $20. User Institution 8 receives this information and processes the request. This is accomplished by taking the identifying information from the coin (or coins, if more than one was used) and comparing it to the account information archived on its system. The user's account would then be debited by $20, and the merchant's account would be credited by $20. Thereafter, Transaction Processing Unit 17 in Vendor Institution 9 would transfer $1 to Trust Institution 10, as previously described. By making the re-allocation of a portion of the transaction price come directly from the vendor's sale price, the transaction is invisible to User 1, and does not require him/her to fund User Account 20 in Trust Institution 10. Instead, User Account 20 is funded by Vendor 5. Vendor 5 in turn receives direct benefits from this arrangement through its tremendous marketing appeal, which provides a significant incentive for User 1 to shop with them. Also, Vendor 5 may receive tax incentives as well. User 1 is provided the significant advantage that he/she can now have investment funds working for him/her—without the need to invest his/her own funds.

Trust Institution 10 then invests and manages the funds from trust User Account 20 into Investment Vehicle 24. This is preferably accomplished by regular electronic transfers in a manner similar to the aforementioned point-of-purchase transfer, but may also be accomplished through paper and physical transfers as well.

FIG. 2 depicts an alternative embodiment of this invention, wherein the User potentially comprises multiple discrete individual purchaser accounts, and, each discrete individual purchaser has a specific identifier within the User Institution 8. Enhanced security is thus provided by a User Verification System 34. More specifically, In FIG. 2, User 1 may use User ID 32 as a source of identification in the transaction with Vendor 5 when using User Check 33 or User Cash 4 (and also when using User Credit 2 or User Debit 3, as previously described). In this alternative embodiment of the invention, User ID 32 is not particularly limited, and may comprise anything that uniquely identifies the user, such as a physical identification card containing a magnetic information strip (e.g., a driver's license). The user identification could also be made through the use of biometrics. For example, a Vendor Processor 6 may include a thumb or finger print scanner and the like.

Once the user identification information is obtained from the user, Vendor Processor 6 may then communicate with User Verification System 34 to verify the identity of the user. It will be appreciated that User Verification System 34 may incorporate a independent source of verification, such as an independent database of state driver's license information that is accessible by Vendor 5, or may be incorporated completely into User Institution 8, such as an internally maintained database of user account information. The database of user account information may also be maintained by User Account Manager 11. One of the advantages of using an independent identification system, (government issued or private), is that it allows for a third party user ID to more easily authorize transactions with multiple user, vendor, and trust institutions. Of course, under proper agreements, one card from one of User Institutions 8 could also authorize the transaction exchange for each of the multiple user, vendor, and trust institutions. User Institution 8 may comprise a credit card company, for example, and User ID 32 may comprise a special ID card issued by a third party having an agreement with a number credit card companies (and also a number of different vendors and trust institutions). When this special ID card is presented by User 1 to Vendor 5, User ID 32 is checked against the database at third party User Identification System 34 to authorize the transaction. User Identification System 34 may contain identifying information regarding the user trust accounts for User 1 at Trust Institution 10 to allow Vendor 5 to properly allocate funds to the trusts. User identification systems, and the operation of searchable databases, are well known in the art and therefore will not be further elaborated on here.

Of course, it is not necessary that Vendor 5 verify User ID 32 at the time of the transaction. User Verification System 34 may also be maintained directly by Vendor 5, such as in a database, or other record system either at the purchase location or at Vendor Institution 9.

Once User 1 is identified, then Vendor 5 may deposit User Cash 4 or User Check 33. Alternatively, Vendor 5 may cash User Check 33 at User Institution 8, or with some third party to receive cash. Once Vendor 5 has the cash, then Vendor 5 may user the information in User Verification System 34 to distribute funds to the user trust account at Trust Institution 10 for User 1 in the manner previously described.

Regardless of the manner of payment made by User 1 (credit, debit, cash, check, etc.), User 1 may separately maintain User Account 13 and a second User Account 35 preferably together at User Institution 8 or at separate institutions. This will allow a portion of the funds transferred from Vendor Institution 9 to Trust Institution 10 to be distributed to the second User Account 35.

For example, User Institution 8 or Vendor Institution 9 may have an incentive program whereby, for certain types of purchases, User 1 may receive “cash back” or points (such as with conventional credit card “cash back” or airline mile programs) for a beneficiary to be named by them. This “cash back” feature is equivalent to a “rebate” offered by automobile dealerships. More specifically, the “cash back” feature can be applied at the time of the computation of the purchase price, so as to reduce the payment to the Vendor; and, the “cash back” or “rebate” associated with the transaction, funneled directly from the from the User Institution 8 to the Trust Institution, specifically, the Money Transfer System 22 of the Trust Institution 10, for credit to the User Account 19.

For purposes of additional illustration, a parent may obtain a User Credit 2, or User Debit 3, at User Institution 8 for a child. Whenever purchases are made by the child (or parent) using this card, the appropriate portion of the transaction amount are earmarked for the child's trust account at User Institution 10. However, if a certain level or type of purchase is achieved, a portion of this amount may be returned, or credited to the parent's account, or to a special spending account for the child. The actual transfer of funds may occur in any of the aforementioned manners. For example, the “cash back” may retained by User Institution 8 at the time of the transaction, and credited immediately to second User Account 35. Alternatively, the funds may be transferred back by Vendor Institution 9, or by Trust Institution 10, before any of the funds are credited to the user's trust account. Trust Institution 10 can keep User 1 informed as to the status of the funds in User Account 20, and the details of Investment Vehicle 24, in a variety of ways, as previously mentioned.

FIG. 3 depicts the implementation of the system of this invention by means of an interactive web site. In this embodiment of the system of this invention, an electronic document, such as a Web page created using HTML, is loaded into Document Viewer 25. Document Viewer 25 may be any software application capable of viewing electronic documents and loading additional electronic documents from within the original document, such as through the use of a hypertext link or form (although not limited thereto).

For example, the Document Viewer could include a Web browser, such as Navigator from Netscape Communications or Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The electronic document may be loaded automatically when Document Viewer 1 is first started, or may be opened into the viewer by the user from a file stored locally or at a remote address. For example, the user may load the document by typing the document's address into the Web browser's command line. Document Viewer 25 may be accessed by the user through any of a number of computer systems, such as through the use of a terminal connected to a mainframe system, from a personal computer, or over computer connected to a local computer network.

Document Viewer 25 is connected to the Internet along with Personal Computer 26, through Network Connection 27. This connection is typically made through local telephone lines using an analog, ISDN, or DSL connection, though it can be over a direct network connection, such as an Ethernet network and leased line. Network Connection 27 may be a computer network that routes any requests from Document Viewer 1 to the appropriate location on the Internet. This operation is well known to those of skill in the art. Network Connection 27 connects Document Viewer 25 to Web Server 28 through any of a number of well-known connection schemes, such as through the use of leased lines. This combination essentially comprises User Interface 8 in this particular preferred embodiment of the invention. Web Server 28 is typically a software application running on a remote computer that is capable of forwarding or processing requests from Document Viewer 25. For example, Web Server 28 may include any one of a number of well-known server applications, such as the NSCA Web server, the Apache Web server, etc. Web Server 28 passes a document request from Document Viewer 25 to Data Source Interface 29 for accessing Data Source 30. Data Source 30 contains information on each user and that user's trust account, such as the amount deposited, a record of deposits, the amount of growth in funds due to Investment Vehicle 24, how Investment Vehicle 24 is investing the funds, which organizations comprise Investment Vehicle 24, etc.

After a document, such as an HTML form (or series of forms), is loaded into Document Viewer 25, the user enters in the appropriate information and activates a hypertext link or form “Submit” button, generating a signal back to Data Source Interface 29. This is preferably in the form of an HTTP request sent over the Internet using TCP/IP and possibly a Secure Socket Layer (“SSL”). The request may be routed through Network Connection 27 and through Web Server 28 to Data Source Interface 29. It will be appreciated that the details of HTTP operation in conjunction with TCP/IP and SSL are well known to those of ordinary skill in the art and will, therefore, not be elaborated on here. When the HTTP request is received by Data Source Interface 29, it accesses Data Source 30 to retrieve the requested information based upon the signal from Document Viewer

In one embodiment of the invention, a common gateway interface (“CGI”) program, well known to those of skill in the art, may be used to parse the data from Document Viewer 25. This program acts as an interface between the Web Server 28 and/or Data Interface 29 and Data Source 30 by executing a set of instructions. The interaction of Web servers and CGI programs and the sending of information between them is well known to those of ordinary skill in the art.

The CGI program may extract the document information from the information passed to it by the server and retrieve the appropriate information from Data Source 30. This may be accomplished in a number of ways known to those of ordinary skill in the art. For example, if the CGI program is a PERIL script or other API, a database access module can be used to interface with the majority of commercial relational database applications. Examples of such databases include Oracle, Sybase, SQL Server, and the like. It is also possible for these systems to be accessed directly by Web Server 28 using their own internal data engines. Information is submitted to or extracted from Data Source 30, depending on the signal sent by the Document Viewer 25. Data Source Interface 29 then generates a signal back to Document Viewer 25 through Web Server 28. User 1 can even send requests for additional information to User Account Manager 19 or Trust Manager 23 via email through Email Server

The operation of Internet-based email is well known to those of skill in the art and will not be elaborated upon here. Although this invention has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it will be appreciated that many variations may be resorted to without departing from the spirit and scope of this invention. For example, the user interface, data source interface, and data source of the present invention may comprise a single software application, and may be operated from a single computer or a network of computers via the Internet or an internal intranet. Moreover, for example, a network of personal computers may be used, a mainframe system, or a server and peripheral thin clients.