PULSE, the Houston-based ATM-EFT network owned by Discover Financial Services has launched a surcharge-free ATM network with MoneyPass, the network owned by Elan Financial Services.
Elan is a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp. Roughly one-third of PULSE's 4,500 participating financial institutions are credit unions, the network said.
The partnership between PULSE Select, PULSE's small previously existing surcharge-free ATM network and MoneyPass, makes another 16,000 surcharge-free ATMs potentially available to credit unions that process with PULSE. It also makes thousands more ATMs potentially available to MoneyPass, should their deploying credit unions sign on with the new effort.
"In today's economic environment, consumers are looking for ways to cut costs, while maintaining convenient access to their money," said Judith McGuire, PULSE senior vice president. "In response, the PULSE Select/MoneyPass network provides financial institutions with an economical solution, while driving customer loyalty and creating a competitive advantage to help participants attract new cardholders."
The PULSE Select/MoneyPass network enables PULSE participants to provide their cardholders with increased access to surcharge-free ATMs at banks, credit unions, grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants and other locations in all 50 states, the network said.
"The PULSE Select/MoneyPass network will allow PULSE financial institution participants to remain competitive without the cost of adding new ATM locations and will help retain and attract new cardholders by providing additional convenience where they live, work and travel," McGuire added.
Participating in the new ATM network will carry a two-part pricing and participation structure, network and credit union executives explained.
First, participating credit unions will be assessed a monthly fee for their participation, either on the basis of enrolled cards or on actual transactions and, second, participating credit unions must forgo ATM surcharge income from the cardholders of other participating MoneyPass financial institutions.
Requiring PULSE-participating credit unions that wish to sign on to MoneyPass to add their deployed ATM to MoneyPass is a way to grow the network organically, according to MoneyPass President Douglas Miraglia.
"This is an excellent opportunity for MoneyPass to come together with one of the country's leading ATM-debit networks," Miraglia explained. "This strategic alliance with PULSE enables MoneyPass to continue to expand our network across the country, providing convenient ATM access to cardholders everywhere."
Skeptics evaluating the new partnership openly doubted whether many credit unions will be drawn to a partnership with a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp, but MoneyPass has built relationships with CUs for some time.
"I greatly doubt that an ATM network owned by U.S. Bancorp is going to have helping credit unions better serve their members as its highest priority," said Jim Hanisch, senior vice president with CO-OP Financial Services. "I know Stan [Hollen, CEO of CO-OP] feels that way, and so do I."
CO-OP Financial Services is the parent CUSO for the credit union-owned CO-OP Network of surcharge-free ATMs.
Hanisch noted that access to cash is only one-half of the ATM picture. Consumers surveyed about what they want from ATMs have also wanted to be able to deposit money to their accounts and this, he added, is an ability that only CO-OP Network provides.
"We have more than 9,000 deposit-taking ATMs already deployed," he said. "That's 9,000 places that credit union members can not only access their cash but also add to it."
Not only has the largest credit union, Navy Federal, partnered with MoneyPass (among other networks) to provide surcharge-free ATM access, other credit unions and credit union leagues have relationships as well.
According to Miraglia, roughly 50% of the network's participating financial institutions are credit unions, the rest are primarily community banks.
Kim Engman, associate vice president of ATM Network Services for Navy Federal, reported that Navy has been a participant in MoneyPass since May 2008, and that the network does roughly 5% of its total monthly ATM transactions, about 250,000, with MoneyPass.
"All the feedback we have gotten from our members is that they love MoneyPass and all our surcharge-free options," Engman explained. "With many ATM surcharges hitting $3 per transaction, we are saving our members a lot of money."