NTS, a card processor owned by First Data Corp. that serves the trucking industry, created a debit card program to help employees without bank accounts get their pay.

The TransPay debit card can be used at automated teller machines. NTS said it was developed to market to corporations with large numbers of unbanked employees or highly decentralized operations. It reduces the need to produce checks and send them by overnight delivery to various locations, the company said.

Michael Brunner, NTS' director of business development, noted that between 10% and 20% of working people don't have bank accounts. Those unbanked employees must rely on check cashing stores to cash their checks and pay their bills.

"We believe there's a need for this type of product, based on reaction from hourly-paid employees," said Mr. Brunner.

TransPay will be marketed to retail chains, convenience stores, construction companies, and other industries with hourly wage earners, transitory personnel, and decentralized locations.

NTS introduced TransCash Plus, a similar program, to its trucking industry customers two years ago and has issued 5,000 cards.

Through its association with First Data, NTS has a "built-in customer prospect base," said Mr. Brunner.

The cards are accepted at ATMs in the MAC, Honor, and Plus networks. NTS is sponsored into the networks through its relationship with CoreStates National Bank of Philadelphia, whose name is on the front of the card.

A business account is set up for the corporation, with subaccounts for each cardholder. Wages are direct-deposited into the employees' debit accounts on paydays.

The employer pays NTS for each employee's first transaction per paycheck, Mr. Brunner said; the employee would pay $2 to $3 per subsequent transaction in that pay period. Acceptance at point of sale locations is expected by midyear, the NTS official said.

Employees can check balances and recent transactions through a toll-free number. Those with bank accounts can also use the phone service to transfer funds them.

The debit card comes with a book of draft checks from Western Union, a First Data subsidiary. Western Union offices will cash the checks; so will some banks and retailers.

Though the concept is not new, it "sounds like an excellent product," said James L. Accomando, a consultant in Fairfield, Conn. He called it a "much more cost-efficient way to move funds."

The program saves money for corporations while providing unbanked employees with a more secure, flexible, and convenient way to get their money, he said.

Similar prepaid debit cards have been issued through Maritz, a St. Louis-based company that designs employee incentive programs. Those programs are MasterCard-branded and are accepted at retailers and ATMs.

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