nation's automated teller machine networks for the year-2000 date change, network executives said Wednesday that customers will be able to use their debit cards on Jan. 1 as on any other day.
"This industry is prepared," Dennis Lynch, president and chief executive of NYCE Corp., said at a news conference. "It is ready, and consumers should have complete confidence that their services are going to work normally."
These executives -- members of the Network Executives Council of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, whose 10 companies process more than two-thirds of ATM transactions nationwide and more than 80% of point-of-sale transactions -- said that at yearend, customers should withdraw no more than what they would need for a long weekend."Withdrawing large amounts of money from a financial institution at yearend is unnecessary and unwarranted," said Stan Paur, president and CEO of Pulse EFT Association. "The sky is not going to fall. These systems are working and will work."
Meeting with federal banking regulators Tuesday, the executives outlined how they had upgraded software, replaced outdated equipment, and completed testing. Their contingency plans include emergency power generators and telephone lines for their switching systems. Ronald V. Congemi, president and CEO of Star Systems Inc., said his network has ordered a two-week extra supply of fuel to power emergency generators.
ATM withdrawals are expected to start increasing in November. The executives said their systems are ready to handle increased volume, and an estimated 50% of banks will have 25% to 100% more cash on hand. The executives acknowledged that their precautions could be undermined if the banks that own and stock ATMs are ill prepared, but they said financial institutions are ready and closely overseen by regulators.
Mark O'Dell, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's director of year-2000 supervision policy, said regulators have aggressively examined more than 30 ATM networks and determined them to be generally performing well. "We are confident, come Dec. 31, that customers are going to be able to access their funds and check their account information," he said. "It is going to be business as usual."
Yet the public is wary. Conducted in April, a Gallup survey of 1,600 households found that 78% of cardholders expected ATMs to work properly on Jan. 1, but only 41% had "a great deal of confidence." Seventeen percent said banks will run out of money, and 26% said they expect inaccurate account balances, according to the survey.