Payments and more at your local convenience store

by Erin McCune on April 1, 2006

in Payments News

7-Eleven, Exxon Mobil, and Circle K have introduced expanded service ATMs in their stores, hoping to attract and retain customers. Consumers can use these "ATMs on steriods" to not only get cash, but pay bills, transfer funds to other people, buy cell phone minutes, and cash checks.

Excerpt from the New York Times (April 1, 2006)

At convenience stores, companies have found the kiosks make business sense. If a machine is handling a money transfer or a bill payment, no cashier is involved in the transaction — which typically involves $200 or so in cash — reducing the likelihood of employee theft and freeing clerks to handle other transactions. And when people come in to a store deliberately to pay a bill or withdraw cash, they may well be tempted to pick up a soda and a sandwich. In addition, the customer gains privacy and may be able to avoid a separate trip to pay a bill.

''What most companies are looking at it for is to drive new customer traffic as opposed to driving revenues from the specific kiosks,'' said Jeff Lenart, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, a trade group.

It is difficult to pinpoint how much extra revenue the terminals generate in incremental food and product sales, Mr. Lenart said, but the idea is to get people to start changing their habits so that they shift their bill-paying or other chores to a convenience store from elsewhere.

''What is very exciting is to see a brand new person come in and use the machine and see how easy it is,'' said David B. Taylor, category manager for store services for Exxon Mobil, which began installing eWiz bill pay terminals in Memphis in 2004. ''Some of those folks may take a bus to a bill payment center, and now they find they can just go down to the corner and pay their bills. It has made their lives easier.''

But it is not just people without bank accounts who use the kiosks. ChoicePay, the company that executes the bill payments for the Vcom's at 7-Eleven, has also installed several bill payment terminals of its own in some supermarkets in Tulsa, where ChoicePay is based. Those terminals typically handle 1,500 to 2,000 bill payments a month — 85 percent of them paid in cash — and 55 percent of the customers do have checking accounts, said Greg Adelson, ChoicePay's president.

''At 7-Eleven, what we have seen is that the number of transactions has continued to increase and the average size of the transaction has continued to increase,'' Mr. Adelson said. ''That could be utility bills going up, but it might be an indication that people feel comfortable putting that much money into a kiosk and getting instant credit'' for the paid bill.

Read the NYTimes article here.

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