The wait for ATMs in Washington's subway system is over -- but for thousands of riders, the convenience will come with the same price tag as it does above ground: a $2 withdrawal fee.
Metro has awarded Chevy Chase Bank FSB an exclusive, five-year contract to install ATMs in subway stations, a broad agreement that rivals the system's 1993 deal with Verizon predecessor Bell Atlantic to provide underground cell phone service.
The contract, which means $1 million a year for Metro and can be extended for two one-year periods, will give Chevy Chase a considerable competitive advantage in the growing battle for banking business in the region.
Banks such as PNC, Wachovia and Commerce Bank are making an aggressive play for customers, plastering their names on buses, roadside billboards and subway cars.
Chevy Chase, which won the contract over several other bidders in the spring, has already installed cash machines in 34 stations in Maryland, Virginia and the District. Beginning yesterday, it formally launched a massive marketing campaign, handing its fliers out at subway stations and putting its message on every billboard at Metro Center between now and the end of October.
Metro and the bank say the ATM deal will inject much needed cash into the subway system and offer a popular amenity to time-strapped commuters. But there will be no competition for those who need cash -- the other banks won't have a crack at the system for up to seven years.
With nearly 1,000 cash machines, Chevy Chase says it has the largest ATM network in the region, and its dominance will expand with the Metro deal. The machines, emblazoned with the bank's name and located next to fare card dispensers, will capture the attention of thousands of potential customers every day.
"It's a huge opportunity," said Terry Cole, the retail bank marketing director at Chevy Chase, which has designed the machines to dispense $10 bills, an underground-only convenience designed to appeal to riders buying fare cards.
The agreement is expected to accelerate Metro's efforts to boost non-passenger revenue. Gary Malasky, director of property development at Metro, said revenue from the deal "is very helpful in keeping fares down."
Metro is considering a wide range of options for increasing revenue, such as television screens with advertising in subway cars and the development of small retail outlets inside stations. The Chevy Chase bank deal is not the first time Metro has introduced ATMs, but an earlier test program fizzled out.
For the next few weeks, Chevy Chase's marketing campaign will turn some subway cars into giant billboards painted blue and white, emulating a tactic of McDonald's, which in May dressed subway cars up as large fruit salads.