Continuing a national publicity blitz, Interlink Network, Visa U.S.A.'s on-line debit program, has launched month-long promotions in Colorado and Louisiana.

Radio and print advertising, cardholder mailings, and support materials for participating members and merchants will be used to promote Interlink usage.

Both Visa and MasterCard International consider debit to be an important new frontier in consumer-payment cards. Because financial institutions can issue only one brand of debit, issuers chose between Interlink/Visa Check or Maestro/MasterMoney, making it a highly competitive game.

"Colorado and Louisiana are very ready for debit products," said Roseann Clavelli, a ViSa spokeswoman. "They're good markets to do the program because of a convergence of cards, merchants, and consumer interest."

Some 300,000 Coloradans own ATM cards with the Interlink logo, and there are 125,000 Louisiana Interlink cardholders.

Financial institutions participating in the Colorado campaign, which began last month, include Colorado National Bank, FirstBanks of Colorado, BestBank, and Alpine Banks of Colorado. Merchant participants include Safeway-Denver Division, City Markets, and Circle K.

The Louisiana launch began the first week of September. First National Bank of Commerce, First National Bank of Lafayette, City National Bank of Baton Rouge, First National Bank of Lake Charles, and Rapides Bank and Trust Co. are participating. Exxon, Circle K, and Schwegmann are the retailers.

Interlink completed its first market-area launch in North Carolina in May. Participating issuers experienced a 69% overall increase in Interlink transactions in the month following the launch, said Vicki J. Hall, director of marketing for Interlink.

Transactions grew an additional 31% the following month, she added.

"We think the role of consumer education is very important," said Ms. Clavelli.

"We want to encourage consumers to understand that they can use cards with Interlink logo to pay for goods and services that the ATM card they're carrying in their wallet has more value and benefits than simply using it to withdraw cash."

Markets to be targeted throughout the remainder of the year include Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

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