The National Automated Clearing House Association has kicked off a new drive to stimulate direct deposits of salaries, pensions, and other funds into consumers' accounts.

Encouraged by a 1989 campaign it credits with increasing direct deposits by more than 50% over the past two years, the Herndon, Va.-based association decided to continue the drive this year.

Electronic funds transfer, or EFT, has long been viewed by banks and other corporations as an effective way to improve operational efficiency. By directly depositing funds into an account rather than issuing a check, corporations are freed from the hassles of a paper-based payment system and banks can predict with greater accuracy when funds will clear through the payment system.

Method Not Yet Popular

Despite the advantages of easier and quicker access to their money, consumers in the United States have been slow to embrace the electronic transfer of funds. According to the association, about 19% of American consumers use some form of direct deposit, compared with averages ranging from 75% to 90% in European countries and Japan.

"The campaign targets corporations and financial institutions because they are the key players in influencing greater usage of direct deposit," said Elliott C. McEntee, president and chief executive officer of the clearing association. "It is important for them to discover the benefits of their service and offer it to their customers and employees."

The 1991 direct deposit drive began Oct. 1 and will run through the end of this year. The campaigns budget was not discloseD.

The trade association, which represents the 42 regional automated clearing houses, has been distributing promotional materials for use by banks and other companies. The materials, designed to be given out to consumers to increase awareness of direct deposit benefits, include instructional brochures, posters, and videos.

Since the first drive in 1989, when participation in direct deposit was 11.9%, more than 200 million consumers have been reached by some phase of the promotional effort, association officials said. More than 3,200 companies have expressed interest in implementing direct deposit programs or increasing employee participation in existing programs.

"The success of the campaign can be attributed to a combination of national and local public relations efforts undertaken" by the association and its 42 members, said Robert D. Edwards, senior vice president at PNC Corporate Services in Pittsburgh and chairman of the campaign.

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