Ruston State Bank, Ruston, La., has turned to an alternative delivery method to get its services into high-traffic locations.

Ruston, part of Heritage Financial Corp., a bank holding company with $430 million of assets, is placing four scrip terminals in convenience stores and restaurants in its market.

Scrip offers the bank and merchants a means of providing customers with currency in a retail setting. Like automated teller machines, the scrip terminals provide account information and the means to transfer funds.

But instead of dispensing cash, the terminals dispense scrip. In turn, the merchant where the terminal is located redeems the scrip.

Cost Savings Seen

The bank is using terminals developed by Triton Systems Inc., a company based in Christian, Miss.

According to Frank Wilem, a vice president at Triton, more banks are discovering that scrip may offer some significant advantages.

Mr. Wilem said the Triton terminal, dubbed MiniATM, is priced at one-tenth the cost of a traditional, fully-functional ATM.

He added that maintenance costs for the scrip terminals are also lower than traditional ATMs, because the machines don't dispense cash.

Big Student Market

Ruston is home to a pair of large universities, Louisiana Tech and Grambling State. According to Cordell Emery, an information systems officer at Heritage Financial, the bank decided to launch the scrip terminal program as a way to serve merchants that deal with large numbers of students.

"Younger people use ATMs more regularly than others," said Mr. Emery. "With so many students coming from out of town, scrip provides merchants with an easy way to guarantee funds."

Reducing the Paper Flow

Mr. Emery anticipates that scrip will also reduce the bank's reliance on paper.

"We're in favor of any system that reduces the flow of checks and paper-based transactions," he said. "Electronic funds transfer is only going to get bigger, and scrip is one way of addressing the market demand."

The Ruston State Bank scrip terminals tie into a switch at Intercept Systems Inc. in Atlanta. From there, Intercept connects to a range of regional and national networks.

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