The MAC regional electronic banking network will lift its ban on surcharging at automated teller machines, effective April 1, 1996.
The Delaware-based network follows in the footsteps of Visa International's Plus network, which will also allow ATM owners to assess usage charges starting next spring.
"This was a market-driven decision," said Philip A. Valvardi, director of the MAC network. "We were noticing off-premises, resort locations where ATMs had not been deployed because our financial institution members could not make the business case."
MAC network officials are hopeful that by allowing surcharging, more ATMs will be deployed in seasonal locations, like ski resorts, beaches, and amusement parks.
Under MAC's new surcharging policy, banks that own ATMs may charge consumers for using the machines - on top of any other charges assessed by the card-issuing bank.
However, MAC has included a nondiscriminatory tenet in its policy, so that if a surcharge is imposed on a MAC cardholder, a surcharge of equal amount must be imposed on all cardholders of each national and regional network and any other card-issuing bodies that have access to that terminal.
The NYCE network, with a geographic territory that overlaps much of MAC network territory, has a similar policy.
However, Cirrus, the global network operated by MasterCard International, still prohibits surcharging except in those 14 states that have legislation that expressly overrides the ban. A Cirrus spokeswoman said the network would be reviewing its policy at its next board meeting, early next year.
Effectively, that means most ATM owners cannot assess the charges, since between 65% and 95% of all ATMs in the United States participate in Cirrus or other networks that don't allow surcharging.
MAC's neighbor to the south, the Most network operated by Internet Inc., for example, still prohibits surcharging.
"I've talked to a number of people, and they're hoping that Cirrus stands firm," said Richard G. Lyons Jr., chief operating officer of Internet.
Small banks, in particular, tend to dislike surcharges, since they own fewer ATMs.