Wal-Mart Equips All Northeast Stores for NYCE Debit

Article excerpt

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has widened its embrace of on-line debit, equipping more stores to accept NYCE Corp. automated teller machine cards.

Wal-Mart, the nation's leading retailer, has accepted NYCE and other on- line debit cards for years at certain stores but until recently had not done so in NYCE's primary markets in the Northeast. This month, it equipped 150 more stores with the necessary pinpads, bringing the number of Wal- Marts with on-line debit capabilities to 1,425, according to NYCE.

"We have equipped all of our stores in their market to accept NYCE, which will certainly promote their card more," said Kathy Schimmel, manager of financial operations for the Bentonville, Ark., retailer.

Promoting on-line debit is a priority for Wal-Mart, which in 1996 challenged in a lawsuit the debit card pricing policies of Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International. The suit became a class action, with The Limited Inc., Sears, Roebuck and Co., and Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., among others, agreeing with Wal-Mart that they should have some discretion to refuse the off-line debit products Visa Check and MasterMoney.

While the card associations' rules require equal treatment and acceptance of off-line debit and standard credit cards, the retailers complained that they were being squeezed by the high interchange fees on off-line debit transactions.

Lloyd Constantine, a lawyer representing Wal-Mart, called the NYCE announcement "an indication that Wal-Mart is going to increase its emphasis" on on-line debit as it pursues its lawsuit.

The litigation is now in a "very heavy discovery phase," and no court dates are scheduled for a while, said Mr. …