Old Kent Financial Corp. will switch its debit program from MasterCard to Visa, and also will use Visa's home banking product.
The decision came after a lengthy review of home banking options by the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based bank. After settling on Visa Interactive, the bank opted to issue Visa check cards as well, a bank official said.
David Kerstein, executive vice president of retail banking for Old Kent, called MasterMoney, MasterCard's off-line debit program, "a fine product."
Even so, he said market penetration of on-line debit cards is too low, and the bank wants to increase fees and services to customers by offering an off-line product.
Given "the combination of the fact that we liked the Visa Interactive product very well and that we were planning a major issue of debit cards, the change from Mastercard to Visa was not difficult for us," he said.
Old Kent Financial has issued 112,677 off-line debit cards and 177,330 standard ATM cards. It plans to switch as many customers as possible to the Visa check card by the summer. The bank will call it Actionbank card, and it will have the Visa logo.
Actionbank is also the name of the bank's electronic and home banking program, which is offering upgraded ATM services for loan payments, printing deposit statements, and buying postage stamps.
"We completely upgraded our ATM operating system in 1995," said Mr. Kerstein."We are now in the process of implementing a lot of the new functionality available through that equipment."
Turning to home banking, Mr. Kerstein said, "We were very impressed with what Visa had done and the partners they had brought."
Phoebe Simpson, an analyst for Jupiter Communications Co., New York, called Visa's on-line banking service "very complete."
"In the last two years, while Visa has made progressive steps, MasterCard has just been trying to keep up," said Ms. Simpson. "Visa offers a more complete package of services. If banks want to present a more unified front to their customers, Visa will give them more options at this point."
Old Kent Financial, which has assets of $12.3 billion, will remain an issuing bank for both Mastercard and Visa. The bank currently uses Magic Line and Cash Station, both regional switches, and will not change to Plus.
MasterCard officials were not available for comment.