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SURVEY SHOWS MERIDIAN ADVANTAGE CARD CHANGING CUSTOMERS' PURCHASING HABITS

 SURVEY SHOWS MERIDIAN ADVANTAGE CARD
 CHANGING CUSTOMERS' PURCHASING HABITS
 READING, Pa., Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Within only three months of launching the Advantage Card, the area's first widely marketed Visa Debit card, Meridian Bank has found that the card already has made a major impact on its customers' spending habits.
 The bank commissioned a survey of Advantage Card holders designed to gauge both their use of the card and their general purchasing trends during the year's busiest shopping season. That survey found that 46 percent of the respondents have decreased their use of checks; 44 percent have decreased their use of cash; and 42 percent have decreased their use of credit cards because of the Advantage Card.
 The survey also showed that the card is being used as frequently as cash or major credit cards to buy holiday gifts. For the average card holder, 29 percent of their shopping was done with the Advantage card; 29 percent was done with cash; 21 percent with credit cards; 11 percent with department store cards; and 10 percent with checks. Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed agree that the card is more convenient than writing checks.
 Security, convenience and thrift are the basic reasons for the change according to those surveyed: 87 percent said it's safer than carrying cash; 46 percent said it's a good way to control overall spending; and 75 percent find it an ideal way to avoid credit card interest rates.
 "We're pleased with the results, but we're not surprised," said Joseph S. Pendleton III, Meridian's senior vice president of electronic banking.
 "We projected that people would find the Advantage Card a convenient and safe alternative to cash and checks, because that's what it's designed for.
 "But we were surprised to see the large number of people who are already using it to control their use of credit. We expected that sometime but not quite so soon," he said.
 Elgie Holstein, director of Bankcard Holders of America, which is advising Meridian Bank on a consumer education program for the Advantage Card, said, "Meridian's data confirms that debit cards can help Americans rein in their credit card debt during this time of recession when more and more people are finding it difficult to make ends meet."
 -- About the Advantage Card: Meridian introduced the card in late September to about 200,000 customers as an optional replacement for their automated teller machine cards. Like other Visa Debit cards, the Advantage Card is somewhat like a plastic check, allowing customers to do ATM transactions and to make purchases at any place that accepts Visa -- a total of 9 million locations worldwide.
 Since September, the bank has been responding to customers' questions about the card and monitoring their responses through telemarketing, staff contacts and, most recently, through this telephone survey.
 -- About the Survey: Conducted by The Response Center, a national full-service research firm located in Philadelphia, the survey was a telephone poll of a sample of randomly selected Advantage Card customers who have used the card both to make purchases and to do ATM transactions. The intent was to develop a profile of usage of the card for holiday gift purchases. The survey results have a margin of error of plus or minus 10 percent (at the 95 percent confidence level).
 Of those interviewed, 63 percent were women, 88 percent have credit cards and 78 percent are employed. Also, 16 percent were 55 or older and 50 percent were under the age of 44. The median age was 39 and the median income, $45,800.
 -- General trends and other findings: The survey also showed both some surprising and expected consumer trends. For example, as of Dec. 9, the date of the survey, the average respondent had completed 54 percent of his or her shopping. Female card holders had completed more of their shopping than did their male counterparts (59 percent vs. 46 percent).
 Also anticipated for the end of a recessionary year was the finding that 40 percent of the card holders expect to spend less on gifts this year than last and 17 percent expect to spend more.
 As to where they'll shop, the customers indicated an overwhelming preference for department stores (98 percent) over specialty stores (79 percent) or catalogs (49 percent).
 The bank was particularly interested in whether the Advantage Card was being used as an alternative to credit cards in catalog shopping. The survey found, however, that credit cards are still the preferred form of payment for through-the-mail buying and that catalog use is more prevalent among credit card holders than among other customers.
 /delval/
 -0- 12/16/91
 /Editors: Pendleton and Holstein are available to share their insights on this survey through phone interviews (Holstein on Tuesday, Dec. 17, only)./
 /CONTACT: Cathy Souders, 215-655-2463, or George E. Biechler, 215-655-2470, both of Meridian/
 (MRDN) CO: Meridian Bank ST: Pennsylvania IN: FIN SU: ECO


KA-CC -- PH015 -- 2594 12/16/91 14:46 EST
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Date:Dec 16, 1991
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