Lucky to Install Bank-Card Machines in 4 More Supermarkets

Times Staff Writer

Buoyed by the success of its debit-card trial program at two Orange County supermarkets, Lucky Stores Inc. is expanding the pilot program to four more outlets, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Lucky and Wells Fargo Bank are co-sponsoring the program with International Business Machines Inc., which developed the debit-card processing machines. All four supermarkets to be added to the program are in parts of Orange County that have high concentrations of Wells Fargo Bank customers.

Lucky officials would not divulge details of the findings of its study of the three-month debit card program, but a spokeswoman for the company said customer use and acceptance of the special automated-teller machines in markets "has been very favorable, and Lucky is very pleased."

The first machines were installed by IBM at Lucky markets in Orange and Anaheim last Nov. 1. Check-out stands at stores in Tustin, San Clemente, Laguna Hills and Anaheim Hills are to be equipped with the automated tellers in late March, according to the spokeswoman for the Dublin, Calif.-based supermarket and retail chain.

A debit-card system enables the customer to use an automated-teller card at the check-out stand to transfer funds electronically from the customer's bank account to the merchant's. Although they are not yet in wide use, financial-services experts consider debit cards to be a major step toward a "cashless" society.

Mobil Oil Co. launched a similar program last year at some Mobil stations. Under it, a customer can pay for gasoline by using a bank automatic-teller card from either First Interstate or Crocker National.

Although the Lucky program currently is open only to customers with Wells Fargo checking accounts, the system could be expanded to accept other bank cards, said Helen Tepperman, senior vice president for business services at Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo officials have said they hope the bank's participation in the debit-card program will attract new customers, as well as extend a service to present depositors.

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