Community Bank-Habersham Helps Cardholders Buy Their Big Macs

A Georgia community bank has teamed up with a McDonald's franchise to let fast-food customers make purchases using their ATM or credit cards.

Community Bank and Trust-Habersham, based in Cornelia, is piloting a program called McScrips designed to provide fee income for the bank and convenience for the owners and customers of the McDonald's.

The program puts an automated teller machine in the restaurant. The machine issues paper scrip to customers. Cashiers redeem the scrip at the order counter.

Linked to Honor Network

The McScrips terminal is tied into the Honor ATM network and does almost everything a traditional ATM does take deposits.

At the end of each day, Community Bank electronically credits the McDonald's franchise for the scrip issued.

Community, with only $123 million in assets, has carved out a reputation for pioneering new ways to deliver products and services.

One subsidiary, Financial Supermarket Inc., specializes in helping banks set up branches in food stores. Started in 1984, the unit has helped a wide range of banks, including Banque Populaire de Lorraine in Metz, France, set up this kind of program.

Similar to Other Experiments

In the mid-1980s, a handful of vendors and banks began experimenting with scrip-based terminals.

Scrip programs tend to do well at convenience stores, liquor stores, and bars, said John Collins, vice president of InterCept Systems Inc., a technology services company in Norcross, Ga., that oversees the McDonald's system for Community Bank. He said about 3,000 scrip machines are in use around the country.

Scrip deters thieves and eliminates the need to make multiple bank deposits during the day, Mr. Collins said.

The McScrips pilot, which began in September, is not the first scrip experiment in a fast-food restaurant chain. In 1988, Wendy's International installed ATMs that dispense scrip in five Dayton, Ohio, outlets.

A Convenience for Customers

Sandy Borrow, who owns the McDonald's in Cornelia, said McScrip is a customer service bonus.

"It's really convenient when customers don't have enough money with them and they want to come in for a quick meal," Ms. Borrow said. "They go over to the machine, put their card in, and get the scrip.

"It's like cashing a check without the check."

Ms. Sullivan is a freelance writer based in New York.

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