Installation of a wireless data communications service was recently completed to process credit and debit cards in the parking lots at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

"We wanted to be able to offer our customers better service, while making sure the cards we were accepting were good, and this provided the solution," said Michael Penny, manager of the North Carolina parking facility.

The airport administration installed a system designed by MasterCard International Inc. of New York, First Citizens Bancshares of Raleigh, N.C., and Ram Mobile Data Limited Partners of Woodbridge, N.J.

The 12 parking-lot booths at Charlotte-Douglas have been outfitted with standard credit card processing machines that transmit and receive approval information by radio instead of dedicated phone lines. Most retail operations use phone lines.

Data are sent and received for approval in a matter of seconds at the airport lot. The airport has been using the system for just over two months.

"We have been spared the costs of installing phone lines and have been able to expand the number of cards we can accept," Mr. Penny said. The system has also sped transaction approval and reduced the risk of accepting bad cards, he said.

Charlotte-Douglas can now accept Discover, American Express, and Diners Club cards in addition to the MasterCard and Visa cards it accepted before.

'Bad Account' Data Expedited

Before the system was installed, Charlotte-Douglas was making off-line authorizations through "bad account" lists, which came in nightly. Because of the 24-hour delay in listing numbers, there was a risk of accepting bad cards. The on-line system's "bad account" lists are updated in real time.

The airport also saves money since credit card processors charge vendors using off-line authorizations higher rates than those using on-line systems.

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