WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Southern National Bank said it is beginning an aggressive campaign to market debit card services to merchants in North and South Carolina.

The lead bank of Southern National Corp., Lumberton, N.C., is building its service around Honor, the Florida-based automated teller machine network that is pushing the use of ATM cards at points of sale.

The Honor network has 4,8000 merchant locations in the Southeast and more than 600 in the Carolinas.

It also ranks among the nation's top five regional automated teller networks, with about 9,000 machines.

|Extraordinary' Growth

"The growth of this new payment system has been extraordinary, with hundreds of merchants signing up each month," said Brent Chitwood, Southern National's credit product manager.

"In many cases, the only piece of equipment the merchant will have to add is a PIN [personal identification number] pad, like what you would see at an ATM."

He said Southern National wants to help create a debit business in the Carolinas on a par with those of such states as California and Florida.

The 1,000 financial institutions in Honor's region -- Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and the Carolinas -- have 18 million ATM cardholders, Southern National said.

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