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 SEATTLE, Sept. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- First Interstate Bank of Washington and Alaska announced today that it has introduced a Visa check card program in response to consumers' growing demands. The new product, which is an enhancement to the bank's current Gold Bancard, will be offered to First Interstate's checking account customers immediately. By issuing its check card to more than 150,000 checking account customers, First Interstate becomes the largest Visa check card issuer in the Western United States.
 Visa now has more than 13.5 million check cardholders nationwide. (Check cards, also known as debit cards, are enhanced banking/ATM cards which can be used at the point of sale (POS)).
 To highlight its identity as a check and cash replacement, Visa has replaced the term debit card with the name check card. This repositioning is a result of extensive consumer research and member input which indicated that consumers preferred the name check card which better describes the service features of the card.
 A convenient replacement to the hassles associated with cash and checks, Gold Bancard can be used to purchase goods and services at locations by providing cardholders with electronic access to their checking accounts. It works particularly well for everyday purchases that cardholders would traditionally pay for with checks or cash -- groceries and gas, for example -- or for everyday purchases such as restaurant meals, drug store items, dry cleaning, shoe repairs, haircuts, and car washes.
 First Interstate of Washington and Alaska has established its card by placing the Visa logo on its proprietary Gold Bancard, adding value to the card by expanding its usage to any of the 10.5 million worldwide locations where Visa cards are accepted.
 "Our customers have been asking for a more convenient way to access the money in their checking accounts," said George Passadore, Northwest Region executive vice president for First Interstate. "The new Gold Bancard is fast, easy to use, and gives them the convenience and value they are looking for," he added.
 Washington and Alaska are the newest entries from First Interstate to offer the Visa check card program. The bank's Oregon affiliate officially began issuing cards in 1991.
 Why Check Cards?
 For many people, adding more convenience to their lives is an important goal. Check cards, by providing the following advantages, can help consumers take the frenzy out of everyday shopping, according to Passadore.
 -- Use Gold Bancard to save time and eliminate the hassle of the
 checkout line
 For today's busy shopper, every second counts, and no one wants to spend precious time at the checkout line. By eliminating the need to fill out a check, present identification, and wait while a clerk copies identification information onto the check, a check card allows consumers to move quickly through the checkout line, especially when they are in a hurry.
 -- Increase shopping convenience by using check cards
 For consumers who make frequent shopping trips to department stores and may spend time in shopping malls, carrying large amounts of cash or a checkbook can be an added inconvenience. As a replacement for cash and checks, check cards allow consumers to pay as they go -- eliminating the need to use up available cash in their wallets, or having to carry cumbersome checkbooks around.
 -- Heighten your security by leaving cash and checks at home
 Besides offering added convenience, check cards offer a great safety advantage, too. Most importantly, they relieve the need for consumers to carry a great deal of cash. And since check card transactions are posted directly to the cardholder's checking account, consumers don't need to reveal any of the personal information that appears on checks.
 How Check Cards Work
 With more than one-half of all U.S. households using their ATM cards at financial institution machines at least once a month, check cards expand usage further by serving as a payment method at merchant locations. Gold Bancard is accepted at all 10.5 million locations worldwide that accept Visa.
 With Gold Bancard, the cardholder presents the check card at the point of sale and signs the sales draft in the same way as other Visa cards or enters a personal identification number (PIN) and receives a receipt. The amount is then deducted electronically from his or her checking account. The transaction is reported on the cardholder's checking account statement which he or she receives each month.
 -0- 9/30/93
 /CONTACT: Marguerite Lynde of First Interstate, 206-292-3721; or Roseann Clavelli of Visa, 415-432-3439/

CO: Visa; First Interstate Bank of Washington and Alaska ST: California, Washington, Alaska IN: FIN SU:

TM -- SF011 -- 7431 09/30/93 15:48 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 30, 1993

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