Russia’s Alfa-Bank And Rosbank Sign Surcharge-Free ATM-Sharing Deal

Alfa-Bank and Rosbank earlier this month merged their ATM networks as the Russian financial institutions looked to compete with Sberbank, the country’s largest bank.

The merged network has more than 5,500 ATMs in 539 cities and towns.

Customers of the two banks now may use either bank’s ATMs without paying a surcharge fee and without limits on cash withdrawals, Rosbank spokesperson Timofey Sobolevskiy tells PaymentsSource.

Alfa-Bank particularly benefits in the Far East, where Rosbank has a strong ATM penetration in Krasnoyarsk, Buryatia, Astrakhan and Tomsk, the bank said in its announcement.

Both banks said they also have ATM surcharge-free sharing agreements with other institutions, too.

“The launch of the project with Rosbank brings the total number of our ATM network bank partners to five,” Alexey Korovin, Alfa-Bank’s head of the retail business, said in a statement. “We plan to continually increase the number of ATMs in this network and to increase the number of such alliances.”

Through its partnerships, Alfa-Bank customers may use 10,300 ATMs without paying surcharge fees. Similarly, Rosbank customers may access 16,000 ATMs for free, says Rosbank’s Sobolevskiy.

In April, two other large Russian banks, Russian Standard and VTB 24, combined their ATM networks. Their customers now may use more than 14,000 machines surcharge free.

State-owned Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, operates a network of more than 37,000 ATMs.

Alfa-Bank is the largest privately held bank in Russia by assets. Rosbank is a privately held Russian bank affiliated with Societe Generale Group and one of Russia’s top 10 banks. The bank’s regional network numbers about 700 outlets, 1,200 points of sales and 3,000 ATMs in 340 cities and towns across the country.

Only two months after Mastercard eliminated the signature requirement on credit and debit card transactions, Discover says it also will drop the sometimes controversial cardholder authentication method.

Beginning in April 2018, Discover will no longer require signatures at the point of sale for credit and debit transactions on the Discover Global Network in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

When EMV chip cards came into the U.S. along with a liability shift, it triggered a debate on whether such a major change in payment methods at the point of sale was worth the expense if it did not go hand in hand with a switch to PIN over signature. Though the major card brands had differing viewpoints on the signature vs. PIN debate, they mostly agreed that it was up to the issuers to establish a process with their customers.

Still, Discover stood behind PIN in the case of EMV, a position that likely made it even easier to dispatch with signature and provide better security tools for its merchants.

The contention among many in the payments industry for years has been that signature is the least secure of all authorization methods, in part because clerks at the point of sale rarely take the time to check it against a signature on a back of a card, and that digital card acceptance monitors call for signatures that do not remotely appear like a cardholder’s regular signature.

Discover says it was a move to continually improve the payment experience by speeding up the time spent at checkout, while also maintaining high levels of security. The card brand cited digital technologies such as tokenization, multifactor authentication and biometrics as more secure than a signature.

“As the payments industry continues to evolve and introduce new methods of transacting, we’re making sure that Discover is providing customers and merchants with a smooth and more secure payments experience,” Jasma Ghai, vice president of global products innovation at Discover, said in a press release.

“With the rise in new payment security capabilities, like chip technology and tokenization, the time is right to remove this step from the checkout experience,” Ghai added.

Discover did acknowledge that merchants interested in no longer requiring a signature for Discover transactions might need to update their point of sale systems.

In light of recent breaches, Discover has introduced a monitoring service that cardholders can sign up for that will alert users if their Social Security number is found in use, or as part of any new accounts opened on their Experian credit report.

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