Point of sale transactions over the Most regional automated teller machine network increased 135% in 1994, reflecting a big push to increase activity.

Network executives attribute the growth to the many merchants that have added debit card payment options within the past year.

"We have always maintained that providing more service options on ATM cards would increase the overall level of consumer usage," said David A. O'Connor, president and chief executive officer of Internet Inc., the Reston, Va.-based firm that operates the Most network.

"Most POS enjoyed a spectacular year, and Most ATM volume continued to grow at a pace well above the national average," Mr. O'Connor said.

Internet processed 178.9 million transactions in 1994, 27.7% ahead of 1993 volume. For the first time, the percentage increase in Most POS volume was greater than the corresponding growth in ATM transactions.

Most POS volume increased 135% to 37.7 million transactions, while Most ATM transactions grew 14% to finish at 141.2 million.

In its most recent merchant move, Most signed up Shoppers Food Warehouse Corp., an upscale warehouse-style food retailer, for debit POS acceptance.

With the addition of the 34 Shoppers Food Warehouse stores, Most cards are accepted by about 95% of the supermarkets in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area.

Cards with the Most logo had long been accepted at Safeway and Giant food stores, which command close to 80% of the grocery store market in the Washington-Baltimore area. Shoppers Food Warehouse, based in Lanham, Md., added the payment option as a competitive response.

"Customers are becoming more accustomed to using ATM cards to pay for their purchases where they shop," said Sandi Perkins, director of marketing and broadcast advertising for Shoppers Food Warehouse.

To encourage shoppers to use their debit cards, Shoppers Food Warehouse and Most will be cosponsoring advertising and other promotions.

"The point of the promotion is education," said Richard G. Lyons Jr., chief operating officer of Internet. "We will also do something to incent the consumers to use the card. We don't know yet exactly what shape the incentives will take."

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