Hoping to appeal to members who lack a driver's license or other photo identification, the Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union is issuing ATM cards bearing computer-generated pictures of the cardholders.
The Brooklyn institution began issuing the cards earlier this month, said Marcin Sar, chief executive of the $375 million-asset credit union.
"A significant number of our members are recent immigrants who need an American photo ID," Mr. Sar said. "It isn't safe or convenient to always carry your passport." About 8,000 of Polish and Slavic Federal's 37,000 members carry ATM cards, Mr. Sar said. The new cards, which cost $10 to cover processing costs, should boost that figure.
"We have issued 690 cards during the first two weeks," he said. "By the end of next year, we should more than double the number of exisiting cards."
Polish and Slavic Federal contracted with DataCard Corp., Montgomeryville, Pa., to provide the cards, Mr. Sar said.
By providing more cards to its members, Mr. Sar hopes that ATM usage will increase. Members of Polish and Slavic Federal are reluctant to use the machines because of their novelty and the interchange fees they involve.
"These are people who pinch their pennies," Mr. Sar said.
He expects most members will gradually become more comfortable with the machines.
"The people who come over here are open to new innovations and learn very quickly, especially if their neighbors or family members are using it," said Mr. Sar, himself an immigrant from Poland. "But the old timers will never change their ways."
This is not the first time the credit union offered ATM cards with photographs. It did so, with a different vendor, from 1988 to 1990.
Those cards were far more primitive than the ones offered now. Back then, an instant photograph was stuck to a card. The added surface caused glitches at some machines.
In 1993, the credit union decided to offer photo ATM cards again it was difficult to find a vendor to handle such a relatively small membership base, Mr. Sar said.
While the old photo cards took up to two weeks to get to members, the new ones are ready in 10 minutes, he said.
Next year another credit union with a significant immigrant population - Selfreliance Ukrainian Federal Credit Union - will consider following Polish and Slavic's lead.
"It's not a bad idea," said Bohdan Watral, chief executive of the Chicago-based institution, which has $185 million in assets. "A lot of places require more than one photo ID to cash a check, and this is a good ID for people who don't have one."