U.S. to test ATMs in moderate-income areas here

Locations with few banks are object of pilot program

Banking

November 09, 1999|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Treasury Department launched an ATM pilot program yesterday in Baltimore and in rural areas near Tallahassee, Fla., to bring financial services to low- to moderate-income neighborhoods that do not have easy access to banks.

Under the program, automated teller machines have been put in three U.S. post offices in Baltimore and three others near Tallahassee. The Baltimore locations are at 130 N. Greene St., 146 W. Ostend St. and 1826 Pennsylvania Ave.

Sites in Maryland and Florida were chosen because the states provide financial assistance that beneficiaries access electronically through cards, Treasury officials say. Post offices were chosen to house the machines because the U.S. Postal Service remains in many communities that banks have abandoned, said Gary Gensler, Treasury undersecretary for domestic finance.

Nearly 20 million adult Americans do not have a checking account or other relationship with a bank, said Gensler. "We think access to the financial system is as important as having a telephone," he said.

That access can promote savings and help consumers build a credit history, which eventually can lead to a mortgage and home ownership, he said.

The ATMs will be operated by KeyCorp., a Cleveland bank that does not have branches in Maryland. The machines will not carry any surcharges, although consumers may pay a fee if they have a bank that charges one, Gensler said.

The yearlong, $210,000 program will help determine where to put other ATMs and how to make them profitable, while still providing access for customers, he said.

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