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ARLINGTON, Va. – CO-OP Network, the nationwide, credit union-owned surcharge free ATM Network headquartered in Ontario California, said that it has no formal policy on whether its credit union members can join Allpoint, the new nationwide surcharge free network of ATM National, and is making decisions on dual participation on a case-by-case basis, according to Gene Polito, CO-OP’s president for EFT Services. Polito anticipated there would be a policy in place before the end of the year. The CO-OP executive maintained that CO-OP does not necessarily see Allpoint as a competitor, but is nonetheless working toward deploying the numbers of fee-free machines nationwide that will make membership in Allpoint less attractive for credit unions. “We recognize that we aren’t 100% there yet and that some of our members might want that additional access,” he admitted, but he emphasized that the Network is approaching the question on a case-by-case basis. Polito explained that the organization’s Network Operations Advisory Committee, a committee of 13, soon to be 15, CO-OP Network members of various sizes makes these case-by-case decisions, judging whether a member should be able to hold dual membership in both CO-OP and Allpoint. “The issue is that this panel has to decide on courses of action that are going to be best for all our members,” Polito said, “and we have spent a lot of money getting our network to the level we are,” he added. Currently, CO-OP Network has roughly 16,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide, roughly 5,000 of which accept deposits. This Network Operations Advisory Committee will be responsible as well for setting the overall policy on dual participation itself, he explained Polito differentiated between the case-by-case approaches that he said CO-OP was taking to dual participation in Allpoint and the CO-OP’s decision to require its members to resign from any other surcharge-free ATM networks. The CO-OP is handling Allpoint differently, Polito explained because it doesn’t consider Allpoint a network. “A network has operating rules,” Polito stressed, “mechanisms for things like conflict resolution and ground rules for membership. No one has seen anything like that from ATM National,” he said. But Ben Psillas, Allpoint Network/ATM National president, reported that it does have operating rules and mechanisms for conflict resolution and that it “very much” considers itself a network. “How people define a network might be different,” he said, “but we consider ourselves a network. We have a switch through Fiserv and are switching transactions, so we are a network. Cards and ATM machines are going to carry our brand.” Psillas said he has been approached by CO-OP Network member credit unions that would like to join Allpoint but are confused about what the CO-OP policy toward their doing so might be. The $58 million Healthcare Employees FCU based in Princeton, New Jersey has signed up with Allpoint despite being a CO-OP Network member in the hopes of having the policy favorably clarified before the end of the year. Unless the policy shifts, the credit union may have to decide between the two. “I would hate to have to choose,” said Healthcare Employee’s CEO John Dawidowski, “and I can’t say right now what my board of directors’ choice would be,” he added. Dawidowski reported that the ATM deployment dynamics in New Jersey are what would make the decision difficult. ATM National has deployed 700 machines in the Allpoint network in New Jersey upon its start up, Dawidowski observed, and said CO-OP Network reported 156 machines in the state. The difference between the 166 machines the 700 is what will make the decision difficult, he said. Dawidowski added that while the decision would be up to the credit union’s board of directors he would urge them today to choose membership in Allpoint over membership in CO-OP Network, if it came down to that. “Based on deployments and service to our members, that would be my advice,” he said. He also argued that the advice would be a matter of principle. “I just don’t think it’s up to any network to determine convenience for our members,” he said. “Our job is to facilitate our members being able to make the decision about convenience for themselves.” The $61 million Tyco Electronics FCU, based in Redwood City, California, faces a similar dilemma. The credit union, which is a single sponsor credit union for employees of the Tyco Electronics Company, has a membership that is nationwide, according to credit union CEO Christine Brown and that has made participation in Allpoint very attractive. “Obviously we are very interested in being able to offer our members access to 23,000 surcharge-free ATMs,” said Brown. “We just hope we will be able to do that.” In some instances, Brown reported that there are facilities where her members have to work which don’t have fee-free ATM access for 100 miles. Tyco applied for a waiver, and CO-OP’s Network Operations Advisory Committee denied it, but allowed it until the end of this year. However, Brown reported that Tyco has held off signing up for Allpoint since, if the waiver is not extended, what would be the point in offering the benefit to their membership just to have it taken away? “We just didn’t want to do that to our members,” she said. Polito pointed out that CO-OP membership carries with it benefits that would not be available from Allpoint’s machines. Some CO-OP Network machines take deposits, he noted, whereas Allpoint’s machines are only cash-dispensers. [email protected]

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