Shell Oil Co., the largest retail petroleum marketer, has struck a debit card acceptance agreement with Chicago's Cash Station Inc., a large regional electronic banking network.

Beginning in November, most of Shell's 360 Chicagoarea service stations will accept bank-issued Cash Station debit cards for purchases.

Cash Station is the first regional electronic banking network to secure such a deal with Shell, though similar deals between the oil company and other regionals are likely to follow this one, Shell executives said.

Customer Demand Cited "Our decision to accept Cash Station ATM Cards reflects the growing consumer demand for this easy, convenient payment option." said Bill Schutzenhofer, vice president of marketing for Shell Oil.

Because Shell already accepts credit cards at its stations, almost half its stations in the Chicago area are-equipped with gas pumps that have card readers attached.

These pumps enable consumers with credit or debit cards to pay for gas without entering the station office.

Debit card transactions handled at the pump function like automated teller machine transactions.

The customer swipes a debit card and then inputs a personal identification number when prompted.

Amount Deducted

Once the gas is dispensed, the amount of the sale is immediately deducted from the customer's bank account.

Cash Station's point of sale program has grown rapidly from no transactions in June 1992 to nearly 500,000 a month in recent months.

That growth has been fueled largely by the demand for debit card services from the supermarket and petroleum industries.

Frequent-Use Locations

"Gas stations and grocery stores are the two places where consumers most want to pay for their purchases with ATM cards," said Stephen S. Cole, president of Cash Station, which is Chicago's dominant network.

According to POS News, a Chicago-based newsletter, grocery stores and gas stations contained more than 70% of the debit point of sale terminals deployed in 1993.

While other retail locations, such as fast food restaurants, are making headway, supermarkets and gas stations are expected to be the greatest source of transaction volume for some years to come.

Almost 9,000 Stations

Shell is likely to account for a significant portion of that new traffic. In addition to the 360 stations in the Chicago area, Shell operates 8,300 service stations in 36 other states.

Exxon Co. U.S.A. and Mobil Oil Corp., two Shell competitors, have been offering debit point of sale options for several years.

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