Consumer Payment Card News

USPS Full Acceptance

It took two and one half years but the U.S. Postal Service finally did it. As of today all 32,000 U.S. post offices have credit/debit card terminals. NationsBank, and its partner First Data Merchant Services, installed 60,000 terminals and trained more than 100,000 Postal Service employees. Consumer acceptance has been strong as the Postal Service logged 27.2 million credit card transactions and 2.6 million debit card transactions during the year ending Sept. 30. Dollar volume for the period was $1.1 billion credit transactions and $143 million debit transactions. Business acceptance was initially too strong as businesses sought to charge bulk mail and meter settings to maximize returns on card rewards programs. The Postal Service now excludes bulk mail, meter settings and money order purchases from credit card transactions. However yesterday the USPS says it will now accept debit cards for such transactions.

Starting this month, the U.S. Postal Service is accepting payments by credit card and debit (ATM) card at all of its 32,000 post offices. The Postal Service is the nation’s largest retailer to accept such forms of payment.

Postmaster General Marvin Runyon said, “We have made this new customer convenience uniform in all our installations — from our smallest post office housed in 42 square feet of space in Minturn, S.C., to the world’s largest post office, Chicago’s Main Post Office, with over three million square feet of space,” he added.

In the most extensive credit card and debit card acceptance rollout ever, the Postal Service and NationsBank of Charlotte, N.C., jointly installed 60,000 card acceptance terminals and trained more than 100,000 employees in system usage.

“We are very pleased to join the Postal Service and our processing partner, First Data Merchant Services, to install a payment system that will benefit all Americans,” said NationsBank Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer James H. Hance, Jr.

“This system — the largest card payment system NationsBank has ever installed – – will ensure that all of us have the same options at the post office that we would at other retail outlets,” Hance added.

Postal customers in Kirkland, Wash; Littleton, Colo.; and San Diego, Calif., were the first to be able to say “charge it” or “debit my account” in the national rollout that began in the spring of 1995.

The seven million customers visiting post offices daily spend an average of $55 in debit card purchases and $42 in credit purchases using Visa, American Express, MasterCard, Discover/Novus and a wide variety of debit cards. For the year ending September 30, 1997, the Postal Service accepted 27.2 million credit card transactions totaling $1.1 billion and 2.6 million debit card transactions totaling in excess of $143 million.

“I like the fact that I don’t have to carry cash when I go to my post office,” said Robert Baker of Bowie, Md., whose comments are typical of customers that like the new forms of payment.

“My business customers tell me that credit card usage gives them an accurate record for accounting purposes,” added window clerk Vanita Canada, at the Manhattan Beach, Calif. post office, which began credit/debit card acceptance in September 1996. “And I like it because payment verification is fast,” she added.

Postal customers can purchase all postal products and services with debit cards including those excluded from credit charges such as money orders, meter settings and bulk mail payments.

“We have the most retail outlets accepting payment with a card. Now we want to build the largest card transaction volume in the U.S.,” concluded Postal Service Treasurer Stephen Kearney, whose group coordinated the project with NationsBank.

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