Beginning this month, cardholders from the four automated teller machine networks that merged last year to create Electronic Payment Services Inc. have been able to use all the company's 13,000 ATMs.

This is possible because the four networks -- Green Machine, Owl, Trinet, and MAC -- have established processing links with the Electronic Payment Services switch in Philadelphia.

The EPS "switch" will be moved to Wilmington, Del.. when construction on a data center is completed later this year.

The facility is a computer hub that allows a financial institution to authorize an ATM transaction by one of its cardholders at another bank's ATM.

EPS handles more than 25 million of these transactions a month -- more than any other regional ATM network in the country, according to Speer & Associates. a consulting firm based in Atlanta.

The ATM processing links began coming up last month, and EPS executives expect that all of the network's point-of-sale terminals will become available to cardholders by the end of this month.

Under MAC Umbrella

Concurrent with the establishment of the processing links, EPS has begun to change the signage on its ATMs. Beginning with teller machines in West Virginia, EPS will replace the Green Machine, Owl, and Trinet logos with the MAC mark, which was chosen last year to represent all the ATMs in the network.

"We have formally begun the transition to the MAC brand," said Michael L. Douglas, president of MAC and chief operating officer of EPS.

"Establishing technical links among the member networks represents a significant step forward in our ongoing Midwest expansion effort."

EPS' moves have not gone unnoticed in the electronic banking industry.

As MAC begins to add more Midwest institutions as members -- 11 banks in the region have joined EPS since the beginning of the year -- the MAC brand represents an increasingly larger competitive threat to the bank-owned networks in the Midwest.

The threat is at least partially responsible for persuading 14 Midwest financial institutions to discuss the possibility of establishing an EPS-like network for the Midwest, which is home to almost half the nation's regional ATM networks.

"The discussions are complicated, but they are proceeding well," said Daniel Roma, chief financial officer of the Magic Line ATM network, which is owned by a number of Midwest banks, including NBD Bancorp. "It will be a few months before we reach consensus on anything."

The institutions involved in the discussions include NBD, First Chicago Corp., Comerica Inc., Huntington Bancshares Inc., and Norwest Corp.

Observers expect a statement of direction from the group by the end of the summer.

Electronic Payment Services, based in Wilmington, is owned by four financial institutions: Banc One Corp., CoreStates Financial Corp., PNC Bank Corp., and Society Corp. EPS has about 1,400 participating financial institutions.

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