7-Eleven Tests Automated Financial Services Kiosks

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7-Eleven Inc. is going beyond its role of Slurpee vendor and convenience store chain with the test launch of a new financial services kiosk, Vcom, which serves as an automated teller machine and also lets consumers obtain money orders and perform money transfers.

7-Eleven began testing the kiosks yesterday in 36 stores in the Fort Myers and Naples, FL, area and in 58 stores in Texas. The company plans to place the kiosks in 5,200 stores nationwide by early 2002 after testing them this summer and fall.

The ATM services, provided by American Express, can be accessed via any bank ATM card. The money-order and transfer services, which are provided through a partnership with Western Union Financial Services, can be accessed through any credit card or by making direct cash deposits into the kiosk.

Later this summer, the kiosks will be enhanced with check-cashing capabilities provided by Atlanta-based Equifax Inc. To use the check-cashing service, consumers will have to enter their personal information, allowing Equifax to verify the individual's identity. Once the consumer's identity has been verified, a Vcom membership card and personal identification number will be issued for future transactions. To cash a check the customer will have to insert the card and check, then enter the PIN on the touch-screen at the kiosk.

Following the nationwide installation, the kiosks are expected to be enhanced with online banking services, bill payment services, event and transportation ticketing services, depository services, loans, credit card registration, stored value card services and online shopping services. The company is in discussions with undisclosed online banks, e-tailers, credit card companies and Internet portals to provide these services.

7-Eleven is in the process of developing a Vcom consumer card that would provide services such as stored value accounts and check cashing, according to Margaret Chabris, public relations manager at the Dallas-based company.

The Windows-based Internet kiosk will not allow consumers to surf the Web but rather will allow them access to specific partner banking, e-commerce and credit card customer service portals.

While 7-Eleven is not conducting any marketing to publicize the test run, Chabris said the company plans to use direct mail, billboards, radio and television advertising during the full national rollout.

The company's U.S. stores sell $4 billion worth of money orders and conduct 105 million ATM transactions annually. International sales totaled $29 billion in 2000.

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