May 03, 2010

In the final step of a two-year exercise in which it has reconsidered all its card branding and payment network decidions, Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks today signed a multi-year agreement to provide PIN-secured debit point-of-sale and ATM access to its cardholders through First Data's STAR Network.

SunTrust is one of the largest banks in the United States, with $171.8 billion in assets, 1,700 retail branches and 2,800 ATMs across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Last year, the bank began moving its entire debit card portfolio from Visa to MasterCard. "We felt that MasterCard was the right partner for us, with its products, its analytics, its consulting support and support of the debit card business," comments Steve Karp, senior vice president, enterprise payments strategy, SunTrust, who spoke to Bank Systems & Technology in an interview this morning.

With that decision in place, shifting away from Visa's Plus ATM network and Interlinks POS network was a logical next step. Still, the choice of Star, an electronic funds transfer network with more than two million retail and ATM locations, was a "best of breed" selection, Karp says. "Their vision of the future matches our vision of the future," he says. SunTrust has seen customers' use of PIN debit grow in the last two years, Karp says, yet signature debit still represents about 55% of the bank's debit card activity.

First Data provides signature debit and credit card processing and production to SunTrust, as well as merchant processing services to the bank's business and commercial customers.

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