BETHESDA, Md. – Allpoint, the nationwide non-reciprocal surcharge-free ATM network continues to grow among both credit unions and banks as executives with both sorts of institutions begin to better understand how the network non-reciprocal pricing strategy and large footprint can help them serve their members and customers. “Well, we went with Allpoint because of price and location,” explained Robert Windsor, CEO of the $522 million First Financial of Maryland FCU, headquartered in Lutherville. “Working with Allpoint helped us offer all our members access to surcharge-free ATMs at about half the price we were paying to rebate some of our members’ ATM charges before,” Windsor said. “And they did that at a lot of ATMs.” Prior to signing with Allpoint, Windsor explained, First Financial would rebate the first three dollars in members, ATM charges to the roughly 60% of members which had their funds deposited directly with the credit union. Even with such a limited program – affecting only 60% of the credit union’s 52,000 members and then only for their first $3.00 in ATM charges per month, it still cost the credit union $22,000 per month to do. But, by way of contrast, enrolling with Allpoint allowed First Financial to offer surcharge-free access to more machines to all of its members for only $9,000 per month, Windsor reported. That made enrolling with Allpoint attractive but it was the network’s local footprint that clinched the deal, he said. Windsor had all the credit union’s executive staff and board members visit Allpoint network’s home page on the Internet and enter their home zip code to see how many nearby Allpoint ATM’s pop up. When each reported a high number of ATMs in their area, the deal was made, Windsor explained. Windsor was especially impressed to see the number of Allpoint ATMs near his home, which is in a predominantly rural area. “I live out in horse country and I went to the Allpoint Web site and put in my zip code as was very pleased to find out there was an Allpoint machine within a few miles of my house. My board members and other staff did the same thing and found the same thing too,” he said. Allpoint’s pricing strategy differs from that of so-called reciprocal surcharge-free networks, such as the credit union-owned CO-OP Network, in that participating financial institutions in Allpoint do not have to forego any income from their own ATMs as a price of being part of the network. In addition, cardholders in reciprocal surcharge-free networks must find the ATMs of other network members to get their surcharge-free access whereas, by working with independent service organizations that place far more ATMs, Allpoint is able to offer a far larger ATM footprint. Ben Psillas, president of the Allpoint network, said experiences like First Financial’s were part of the reason his surcharge-free network had grown to roughly 150 member financial institutions since it began two years ago, roughly 70% of which are credit unions. “I think we have benefited from sticking around for a little bit and letting people see that we are not going anywhere,” Psillas said. “We have also grown as more credit unions have begun to better understand how Allpoint can offer cost effective options for meeting different ATM goals.” Psillas said a number of member credit unions have found Allpoint a good incentive for helping their members migrate away from having both an ATM and debit card toward having only a debit card by enrolling only their debit card base in the network. “You would be surprised at how many credit unions still issue both ATM and major branded debit cards,” Psillas said. “They don’t want to tell their members they can’t use their ATM cards any longer, but they would like them to choose to use only their debit card. Making the debit cards surcharge-free has provided a good incentive.” First Financial has found downsides, however. Windsor reported that the most of the Allpoint ATMs are are in gas stations and convenience stores and thus do not accept deposits and might not have the same record of good maintenance that ATMs in banks or credit unions might, Windsor explained. “But there really are a lot of them,” he said. Psillas countered the concern about Allpoint machines not taking deposits by noting that while ATM users frequently tell surveyors that they want their ATMs to accept deposits, the percentage of ATM users who actually deposit checks in ATMs has remained flat or actually declined. He also noted that financial institutions generally have been slow to retrofit their ATMs to participate in the check imaging allowed by the Check 21 legislation. -

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