Maestro U.S.A. is dangling point of sale terminals and money as incentives to encourage banks and third-party acquirers to sign up merchants for a new on-line debit promotion in the 11 top U.S. travel destinations.

With its Maestro U.S. Travel Destination Program, the MasterCard International subsidiary expects to sign up 1,000 merchants in each city by March 31, when the promotion ends.

To date, Maestro has signed up 56,000 merchants to accept its cards at the point of sale, and it expects 25,000 more to go on-line by yearend, said Carl Stefanelli, vice president of acceptance for Maestro U.S.A.

Maestro said some of the nation's leading acquirers are participating, including Wells Fargo Bank, Nabanco, BankAmerica Corp.'s Bank of America, and Barnett Bank.

Describing the promotion as its most ambitious since Maestro went live in 1991, Mr. Stefanelli said it was designed to reach travelers from the United States, Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere.

The destination cities are Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Maestro wants to sign up 250 tourist attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, casinos in Las Vegas, and the Hard Rock Cafe in all 11 cities.

Because of the great number of Latin American travelers in Houston and Miami, Maestro also will target shopping mall merchants for acceptance, Mr. Stefanelli said.

"This really expands the presence of on-line debit from the consumer's standpoint," he said. "The future of this business is not supermarkets and gas stations, as important as they are."

Acquirers will be eligible for free terminals and personal identification number pads, plus processing fee allowances, in-store signage, and decals.

While Maestro is offering incentives to acquirers, merchants stand to gain business from the promotion, Mr. Stefanelli said, adding: "You've just made it a little bit easier for the tourist to spend his money."

Maestro has defined eligible merchants in each city by tier. Tier one merchants consist of landmarks, museums, selected retailers, and tour operations. Incentives to sign merchants in tier one include terminals, printers, PIN pads, - valued at $550 - and a $200 processing fee allowance.

Maestro has identified about a dozen tier two tourist-related merchants. For every two merchants signed, the acquirer will get one PIN pad.

For tier one and tier two tier merchants, Maestro will supply point of sale materials, merchant decals, and chances to win trips.

Tier three merchants are all others in designated zip codes. Maestro will supply decals and chances to win trips to acquirers.

Verifone Inc., Redwood City, Calif., will supply the equipment throughout the promotion. This month, MasterCard and Verifone formed a global alliance to encourage merchants to install point of sale terminals. Mr. Stefanelli said this promotion reflects the alliance and Maestro's goal to accelerate the development of on-line POS debit in the United States.

All acquirers signed up for this program can obtain POS terminal debit equipment at a discount from Verifone.

Maestro expects to expand the program to other regions in 1996.

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