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Fee Hike To Benefit PULSE Members

HOUSTON-Discover Financial said it is raising the PIN-based debit interchange fees it charges card-users in its recently acquired PULSE EFT Association.

The hike in fees, to take effect on June 1, will result in an increase in debit interchange revenues for PULSE members of an average of 20% over the current 18 cents-per-transaction flat-fee pricing.

CUs and banks will continue to pay no switch fee on PULSE PIN debit transactions.

PULSE said it is also changing the fee structure for PIN-less Bill Pay transactions, which will result in an average interchange revenue increase for financial institutions of approximately 28%.

Check 21 Spurs Growth In EFTs

WASHINGTON-Electronic check conversions by banks and credit unions grew six-fold in 2004, mostly because of the new Check 21 Act and increased use of electronic payment systems.

A new study by NACHA shows automated clearinghouse payments grew 20% last year to more than 12 billion, which was largely driven by a six-fold increase of accounts receivable check conversion to more than 1.25 billion.

Annual ARC volume grew by more than one billion payments and accounted for 54% of all ACH transaction growth in 2004, according to NACHA.

Internet-initiated ACH payments represented the second biggest growth area, with 967 million ACH debit payments, valued at more than $300 billion, made over the Internet, last year. That's up 40% from 2003.

First Foray Into TV For First CU

MANCHESTER, N.H.-St. Mary's Bank, the nation's first credit union, is launching a 13-week television campaign this week designed to raise awareness of its mortgage lending options.

The credit union has recently opened a new Mortgage Center, where consumers can apply for a mortgage in minutes using the method that works best for them, whether it's online, by phone or in person at any of St. Mary's branches.

In most cases, applicants receive approval in less than two minutes, the CU said. TV ads, with radio spots providing support beginning in May, will appear in Manchester, Nashua and Concord.

Renters' Credit Bureau Debuts

ANNAPOLIS, Md.-A newly created credit bureau is working with banks, credit unions, check cashers and bill payment services to help renters, most of whom are not recorded with the three credit bureaus, establish their own credit histories and provide them with access to home ownership.

PRBC Corp., which stands for Pay Rent, Build Credit, is developing a system to help people with no formal credit records use their rent, utility, child support and other payment records help them prove they are creditworthy.

PRBC estimates that as many as 35 million Americans from a variety of economic backgrounds make monthly rent payments but have no credit records.

The year-old agency, which has been designated by the Federal Reserve as a "community development service," is working with non-profit and community groups to educate consumers about credit, debt and money management, and enroll potential clients.

Cop-Killing Robber Unfit For Retrial

WAUKESHA, Wis.-A 29-year-old man convicted with his father a decade ago of a crime spree that included the murder of a police captain, a kidnapping and two credit union robberies was said to be delusional and not fit to participate in his retrial, by a court psychologist assigned to examine him.

But prosecutors said they believe Ted Oswald is putting on an act and they plan to proceed with their attempt to have the convicted cop-killer tried and sent back to prison, where he has languished since 1995.

If Oswald is found mentally incompetent he would be committed to a psychiatric institute for treatment until he is considered mentally fit for court proceedings.

Oswald, then 19, and his father James Oswald, were convicted of murder in the shooting of Waukesha Police Capt. James Lutz after the two robbed a Bank One branch in April 1994.

The Oswalds also robbed Medical Systems CU, in Waukesha, and Landmark CU, in Brookfield, in December 1993. A federal court overturned Ted Oswald's conviction in 2003 because of a finding of juror bias.

Bill To Link Accounts To Tax Refund

WASHINGTON-A bill introduced in the Senate this week aims to protect low-income families from high fees charged for tax refund anticipation loans by providing grants to connect tax preparation services for working families with the opening of a CU or bank account.

The goal is to eliminate excess fees many providers of instant tax refunds charge, according to Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Ha., one of the sponsors of the bill.

The bill would also give the Treasury Department authority to regulate tax preparers; require providers of refund anticipation loans to register with the Treasury and comply with disclosures on fees; and require the Treasury to conduct a public awareness campaign on those costs and fees.

Plan Finances Season Tickets

SAGINAW, Mich.-Seven area credit unions are teaming up with minor league hockey's Saginaw Spirits to help fans finance season tickets for next season.

Fans of the Ontario Hockey League's popular local team can now finance a season ticket package in 11 monthly installments through Communications Family CU, Family First CU, First Area CU, Frankenmuth CU, Lake Huron Area CU, Saginaw Medical FCU or and United Financial CU.

Benefits of the program will include monthly payments as low as 4%, access and promotional packages, and to the Spirit Adopt-A-School program.

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