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PURCHASE, N.Y. – MasterCard is opening up the door for its members to form surcharge-free alliances. The association has adjusted its membership rules to allow Cirrus card issuers and Cirrus ATM acquirer financials to form agreements amongst each other allowing ATM withdrawals without accessing a fee. For years credit unions have been forming such surcharge-free alliances. MasterCard claims the rule change has nothing to do with the recent Wal-Mart settlement, but that it was the result of blind research it did of its members. Last fall MasterCard surveyed the Top 25 financials in the U.S., regardless of network affiliation, to find out what improvements they were looking for in ATM networks, and the ability to share ATMs was high on the list, said Jim Richard Lyons, an SVP with MasterCard. There are over 350,000 ATMs in the Cirrus/MasterCard network in the U.S., making the potential reach of deals very large. “This is truly the first time it’s available on a national basis. “We’re flexible, and we’re proving that to our customers,” said Lyons. Lyons said the rule change can especially benefit institutions that have a presence in a region, but don’t have the ATMs to cover segments of the region. He gave the example of a financial with heavy ATM placement in the city, yet not much in the suburbs, and vice versa. Lyons said the CO-OP Network is happy about the change. “They applaud the rule change. It allows the CO-OP to potentially use Cirrus surcharge-free access,” said Lyons. However, some don’t think that financials are that eager to form sucharge-free alliances. “I think there’s relatively slight interest in these programs. Many credit unions like their banking counterparts, rely on the incremental revenue from ATM convenience fees to sustain their programs,” said Stan Paur, president of the PULSE EFT Association, a regional network. Paur called MasterCard’s move a “me too” response to the innovators of surcharge-free alliances, such as the CO-OP Network. “Organizations like the CO-OP are way out in front to develop such programs,” said Paur. The CO-OP Network did not return Credit Union Times’ calls for this story. Lyons emphasized that this is just one of a series of moves in debit program enhancements. Others include issuers and acquirers the option of specifying Maestro and Cirrus as the network of choice for transaction routing. Lyons said it is designed to give issuers and acquirers greater flexibility in transaction routing. In other changes, Maestro acquirers can designate non-member merchants to connect direct to the MasterCard Debit Switch. Master Card will also offer stand-in processing for PIN-based POS transactions using Maestro. [email protected]

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