Cartel Network of Buffalo said it has completed its fourth year with 60 participating financial institutions, 40 more in the pipeline, and a network of thousands of service locations that will soon grow with the addition of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The number of institutions is small by the standards of regional and superregional shared networks of automated teller machines, but Cartel chairman and chief executive officer Joseph E. Wolfson said infrastructure- building has been the overriding priority.

He expects banks, thrifts, and credit unions to continue joining in a steady stream, thanks to endorsements from trade associations, mainly in the Northeast, with more than 700 members in total.

"We're moving in the right direction," Mr. Wolfson said in a recent interview.

Though still making guerrilla attacks on the likes of MAC and NYCE in his home region, Cartel is looking less and less like the quixotic upstart it was when it was founded in late 1994.

Cartel-its formal corporate name is Integrated Delivery Technologies Inc.-has been playing mainly to community banks, credit unions, and retailers seeking an alternative to the major ATM networks and to the surcharging practices that they view as a consumer turn-off.

Mr. Wolfson, who in the early days of ATM sharing in the 1970s ran the Metroteller network in upstate New York with longtime partner and Cartel chief operating officer Craig S. McIntyre, said they spent the first two and a half years focusing on infrastructure. It took until March 1996 to get the first Cartel bank on board.

Cartel made key deals with the New York State supermarket chains Wegmans, Tops, and Price Chopper, which Mr. Wolfson knew from the Metroteller days and brought on-line mainly in 1997. He was able to establish a national network of acceptance locations in an alliance with Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas.

Cartel in December said it had signed a national point of sale and cash- back contract with Wal-Mart, which includes 544 Wal-Mart supercenters and 451 Sam's Clubs as well as 1,862 regular Wal-Mart stores.

The network also announced its latest dozen new members, all in New York, including Buffalo Service Credit Union, Carthage Federal Savings and Loan, Fairport Federal Credit Union, Seneca Falls Savings Bank, and Westinghouse Federal Credit Union.

Delta Sonic, a chain of 21 car washes in Buffalo, Rochester, N.Y., and Chicago, chose Cartel to install ATMs. The first opened last week, and Mr. Wolfson said five in Chicago will be coming on line quickly.

"We are involved in new implementations, including multiple projects for existing banks," Mr. Wolfson said. "We expect to be doing big things in 1999."

Intercept Switch, the no-surcharge automated teller alliance run by Intercept Group Inc. of Norcross, Ga., said it has entered into a joint marketing agreement with the 382-member Georgia Bankers Association.

Banks in Intercept Switch, which was introduced in 1997, mutually offer their cardholders surcharge-free cash withdrawals.

The switch won the Georgia Bankers' endorsement "because of the network's strong commitment to help financial institutions compete more effectively" through "cost-effective services and solutions," said association president Joe Brannen.

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