Texans CU Is Seeking To Spur Cooperative ATM Effort In Austin Market

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Seeking to engender greater cooperation among credit unions, Dallas-based Texans CU is offering surcharge-free access to its ATMs in this market to other credit union's members.

Last month, The $1.3-billion TCU sent a letter to the CEOs of credit unions in Austin offering to allow those credit unions' members free access to TCU's ATMs in the area. "We didn't predicate this offer on them letting our members use their ATMs; we just felt like it was the right thing to do," said COO Dean Borland. "We'd just like to see more credit unions working together."

All the other credit unions have to do is provide their primary account numbers (PAN) to Texans so TCU's ATMs will recognize those other CUs' credit union members and not charge them any fee. While TCU will know who used their machines, the credit union said it will not be gathering data on these members.

Although the 160,000-member CU doesn't have a strong presence in Austin and only has two ATMs in the market, Texans targeted Austin because there's already a group of credit unions cooperating in this fashion, Borland explained. "We just figured that since there's a group that is already doing something like this, they would be most amenable to our offer," he said, again noting that TCU isn't asking for free access for its own members to the other credit unions' ATMs in exchange.

"That would be nice, but that wasn't the point. We only have two ATMs, obviously we would stand to gain more than they would if we predicated this on an exchange," he observed.

So far, only one credit union has responded to the letter, and ironically enough, it's another credit union that also doesn't have a major presence in Austin. Randolph Brooks CU, San Antonio, has taken up Texans on its offer-and agreed to take it a few steps further.

"We will flip the switch across the whole network," Borland noted, meaning all of RBCU's members will be able to use any TCU ATM surcharge-free in any location, and TCU's members will have free access to all of RBCU's ATMs as well.

RBCU recently announced a similar reciprocal agreement with another credit union.

"We all ought to be doing this," Borland suggested.

Of course, there are a number of selective surcharge and no-surcharge ATM networks, most notably The Co-op Network, but Borland said reciprocal agreements among individual credit unions is an alternative to such networks that doesn't have to be mutually exclusive.

"The Co-op Network has machines all over the place, but I don't have members all over the place. We would rather look for reciprocal agreements with credit unions in areas we specifically serve," he offered. "Yes, my members do travel, so being part of a network is still useful so that when one of my members is visiting California, he can use a Co-op ATM. I'm not suggesting these reciprocal agreements replace that kind of network, but it allows us to be strategic about getting into specific areas. It gives me better opportunities in a concentrated area."

And it's also about developing good relations with other credit unions, particularly as TCU expands into Travis and Williamson counties.

"We are friendly competitors," Borland observed. "We just want to be a good neighbor."

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