AT&T Global Information Solutions, Dayton, Ohio, has taken the wraps off an automated teller machine feature that allows customers to view images of deposited checks.

The general availability of this feature, which is also offered by AT&T's nearest ATM competitor, InterBold, is expected to convince consumers of the reliability of the ATM deposit function.

"Since ATMs were introduced, there's been little change in the percentage of customers using ATMs for deposits," said Thomas Sladowski, vice president of electronic banking at Chemical Banking Corp. in New York.

"We anticipate the [new AT&T ATM] will enable us to move many deposit-related transactions from tellers to the ATM and do it in a way which does not add to end-of-day processing costs."

Chemical plans to test the new ATM, known as the DP-ATM, within the next year. Several other institutions, including Barnett Banks Inc., Huntington Bancshares, and Money Access Service Inc., have already begun using it.

According to bank executives, consumers have been reluctant to deposit checks at ATMs in the past because the type of deposit confirmation given by traditional terminals does not effectively allay fears that an item will be destroyed or lost by the machine.

The banks signing on to the new check deposit feature expect that check image technology will help to solve the ATM's credibility gap in this area.

When a customer deposits a check into the new ATM, an image of the item is scanned by a special camera and projected on the terminal screen. The check does not require a deposit envelope.

After the customer keys in the amount of the check, the ATM uses character recognition technology to confirm the presence of signatures on the check. It also reads the courtesy amount from the item and compares this to the dollar amount the consumer has entered.

If the numbers match and signatures are accounted for, the terminal accepts the item and dispenses a detailed receipt. In the absence of a signature or an amount match, a customer is prompted to correct the missing information.

In addition to accepting checks for deposit, the imaging technology can also enable an ATM to cash checks. this application is useful to financial institutions with large numbers of customers who cash payroll checks at teller windows.

Since the DP-ATM can be rigged to read magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) and optical character recognition (OCR) code lines found on utility bills, the terminals may be used in bill payment applications as well.

Each of the DP-ATM's capabilities may be added to AT&T's fourth-generation self-service banking terminals.

A DP-ATM can cost $10,000 to $20,000 more than a traditional full-function ATM. But the financial institutions using the terminals indicated that they have the potential to greatly reduce teller line costs.

Unlike ATM cash withdrawal and account balance transactions, whose preponderance does not necessarily indicate a reduction in live teller transactions, a rise in ATM deposits is expected to have a direct impact on the traffic at the teller window.

"Not only will the DP-ATM provide [customers] with the same funds availability and transaction mix traditionally associated with a teller, it eliminates adjustment processing and reduces ATM settlement costs," said Paul Lambert, director of alternative delivery systems at Barnett Technologies Inc., based in Jacksonville, Fla.

AT&T officials said the company has shipped about 150 DP-ATMs, but they declined to predict future sales.

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