MADISON, Wis. – With the help of the World Council of Credit Unions and the Arizona Credit Union League, the second largest credit union in Mexico has begun the first credit union-owned ATM network in Mexico. At US$365 million, Caja Libertad has 69 branches spread across 12 Mexican states and 32 Mexican cities. "This is a huge deal," said Pat Bodnar, senior vice president of the Arizona Credit Union League. "Down here, the banks have been the sole source for any real banking technology and the fact that a credit union has offered ATMs has gotten a lot of attention." The new network has 50 machines live now and an additional 25 ATMs are scheduled to be live before the end of the first quarter of 2005. Afterwards, the credit union plans to establish still others in the areas where the majority of its 480,000 members live and to begin issuing a debit card that members will be able to validate by signing their names. Through the auspices of WOCCU, the league has been in a partnership with Libertad since October 2003, Bodnar explained, and as part of that partnership representatives of Caja Liberatad traveled three times to Arizona to examine, among other things, how Arizona credit unions drove their ATMs and ATM networks. With such a large member base, Libertad's new ATM service will have an important impact on the financial lives of many, according to Cesar Izurieta, Libertad's director of services. "As Caja Libertad's members have easier access to their money, they will save more. We think the best way to stimulate greater savings is to provide easy access to the funds saved," he said.

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