Industry Beginning to Build National Network of ATMs

The credit union industry is starting work on what it hopes will become a national network of automated teller machines.

The first step, which should be complete by yearend, is the linking of about a dozen statewide networks, according to Jay Becklin, senior vice president for research and product development for CUNA and Affiliates in Madison, Wis.

"There are a lot of credit union ATM accounts out there, but they are fragmented," Mr. Becklin said. "So this is a way to bring them together."

The effort began in April with the creation of C.U. Interchange Group, which will operate the network. Credit union groups in Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia have each plunked down the $10,000 signing fee. Groups in four more states have said they will pay up by the end of June, said Mr. Becklin, who declined to name them.

Credit unions "want to be in a stronger position to represent ourselves in the ATM market-place," he said.

Mr. Becklin said he does not expect credit unions to pull out of other ATM networks where they are participants. "But we think that over time [the new network] will grow and may be very significant," he said, predicting a nationwide credit union network could be in place in three years.

"We just wanted to get in on it right at the beginning," said Mike Judge, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Credit Union League. "We're looking to the future."

He envisions a network that will permit members in Harrisburg, Pa., to withdraw funds while on vacation at Disney World or to continue using their credit union after moving to Chicago.

Mr. Judge said he did not expect Pennsylvania credit unions to drop out of the MAC network. But he said he likes knowing that credit unions eventually will be less dependent on systems operated by others.

"We always have to be prepared for the inevitable if MAC says that they don't want to deal with us," Mr. Judge said.

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