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ARLINGTON, Va. – CO-OP Network member credit unions will not be able to belong to any other surcharge-free ATM networks past December 31, 2003. Members may also be asked to resign from so called selective surcharge groups, according to the CO-OP Network. The CO-OP Network is however making a distinction with Allpoint, the new nationwide surcharge free network. (See story on Allpoint on 46.) Selective surcharge groups are those where the credit union doesn’t join a network that switches its ATM transactions but instead programs its ATMs to recognize, and not surcharge other group members’ ATM cards. A final decision on CO-OP member credit unions belonging to selective surcharge groups is still being considered, according to Gene Polito, president for EFT Services for the CO-OP Network, but the decision to ban participation in other surcharge-free networks has been made. Prior to April 1, credit unions that wished to participate in other surcharge-free networks could do so if the CO-OP granted them a waiver. Changes to the organization’s Operating Rules ended the waiver policy because the Network Operations Advisory Committee had concluded the CO-OP didn’t need it any longer. “The waiver policy was put into place some years ago when we were significantly smaller and we recognized that credit unions might need to have access to other fee-free machines,” Polito explained. “Now that we have gotten larger the committee judged that the waiver policy was no longer necessary,” he added. Credit unions that previously had waivers now have until December 31 to resign from those other networks or resign from the CO-OP, a February 28 Network memo stated. This has left many credit unions facing a difficult choice. “The ironic thing about this is that we were members of Alliance One (a selective surcharge group run by Corporate One) before we became members of CO-OP, and we were up front with CO-OP about that when we joined,” said John Carrick, chief financial officer of the Greater Cleveland Firefighters FCU, an $88 million dollar privately insured institution based in Cleveland. Carrick reported that when the CO-OP had instituted the waiver policy the credit union had pointed out that it was already a member of Alliance One, but that the CO-OP had insisted they get a waiver anyway. Now the credit union has asked the CO-OP to reconsider ending the waiver policy. Alliance One is a selective surcharge group and therefore Greater Cleveland Firefighters might not have to resign its Alliance One membership, according to Polito. But the credit union reported that it has heard from CO-OP that it must resign from Alliance One or leave the CO-OP, a decision Carrick said would be hard to make. Tough Choice Although Carrick could not recall how many ATMs CO-OP Network and Alliance One deployed in the Cleveland area, the two organizations’ Web sites illustrated the credit union’s dilemma. According to the sites, CO-OP Network maintains 22 machines in the Cleveland area, with one accepting deposits, where Alliance One’s Web site reported that it too deploys 22 machines in Cleveland with several accepting deposits. Greater Cleveland Firefighters deploys two ATMs, Carrick said. “We want to be able to offer our members more ATM access, not less,” Carrick said. An executive with Alliance One reported that similar circumstances face its other credit union members. Alliance One has 1,263 financial institutions, mostly credit unions, in 36 states and the executive maintained that the organization had approached CO-OP Network to appeal this decision to end the waiver policy, but so far had not been successful. “We have written them a letter where we make it clear that this exclusive approach is counter to the credit union spirit,” said Sheryl White, Alliance One administrator and assistant vice president for product support for Corporate One FCU. Executives with Key Bank said that it has had credit unions that are CO-OP Network members who have approached to inquire about whether the bank could help them find a way to join even though they are CO-OP Network members. The $85 million Midwest-based bank has signed up 22 credit unions in its surcharge-free ATM network last year and anticipates having 50 credit union participants by the end of this year, according to Brian Sismour, National Sales Manager for Agent Banking for Key. Sarah Grotta, senior vice president for consumer payments for Key reported that there had been a lot of frustration from CO-OP Network members who felt they were unable to better their situation locally because of a national network which did not have as many machines in their local area. “We thought the point was to enable small credit unions to have more ATM access so we can’t understand the CO-OP’s motivation,” she said. [email protected]

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