A study of card usage found that 88% of consumers were pleased by the ease with which they could find an automated teller machine.
But surprisingly, about a third of 600 Indiana residents surveyed was unaware that most ATM cards can be used at terminals all over the country.
And fewer than half of the respondents used ATMs as their first-choice source for cash.
The findings by Magic Line Inc., the largest regional electronic banking network in the Midwest, suggest that despite average annual growth of 15% in ATM transactions, financial institutions and networks could be doing a lot more to educate their customers.
Work to Be Done'
"I think some of the figures speak well for what we've been able to accomplish over the last few years with our marketing efforts, but they also indicate that there's still a lot of work to be done," said Thomas E. Hartman, manager of the Indiana portion of Magic Line's network.
Mr. Hartman noted that as recently as five years ago, only about half of ATM cardholders were aware that their cards were usable outside their local area.
"We've got to build on that local awareness," he said.
The way to achieve this is through marketing campaigns that instruct cardholders about where and how their cards can be used.
The information may be useful in goading consumers who do not use their cards to put them to use.
According to the Magic Line survey, about 30% of ATM cardholders use their cards less than once a month, which is in keeping with national averages, according to electronic banking consultants.
The Magic Line survey also suggested that bankers may improve their methods for getting cards into customers' hands.
Only 53% of the people in the Magic Line sample possessed an ATM card.
In a wider study, the financial institutions participating in Speer & Associates' 1993 Proprietary EFT Program survey reported that about 66% of their customers held ATM cards.
Increasing the cardholder base will be a crucial component of the continued growth of ATM transactions, experts said.
Many network and electronic banking executives believe that this task will become easier as younger, computer-literate consumers make up an increasingly larger portion of banking's customer base.
Effects of Consolidation
Mr. Hartman points out that expanding the number of cards will also benefit the nascent point of sale business.
"Consumers that use ATMs are pretty knowledgeable about other places their cards can be used," he said.
While the plethora of ATM and point of sale trademarks may confuse some consumers, discouraging use of the cards, experts said the consolidation of the electronic banking industry is reducing the confusion.
"The whole system of separate ATM and POS marks is not the most thoughtful approach to the business," said Richard Speer, chairman of Speer & Associates, which is based in Atlanta.
"But with all the mergers and gateway agreements between networks, people can use their cards all over the place now, and the marks are becoming largely inconsequential."