PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Citizens Bank introduced touch-and-go banking Wednesday that allows customers to hold debit cards next to an electric reader instead of swiping the cards.

The Providence-based company will be the first major bank in New England to issue the touch cards to all of its customers. Three other local financial institutions – Bank of America Corp., Sovereign Bank, and TD Banknorth Inc. – are considering the technology.

Some national banks, including HSBC, KeyBank, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup, offer the technology to some customers.

Credit card companies say the technology saves effort and time by speeding up transactions. The companies hope that the technology will persuade more customers to use debits cards for small purchases.

Financial institutions make a small profit every time a debit card is used.

The touch-and-go system is already available at CVS Corp., McDonald’s and AMC Theatres. Some gas stations accept a technology similar to touch cards that is called a wand. The device hangs on a key ring and lets customers pay by waving it near a reader.

The new Citizens touch cards look like traditional debit cards and can still be swiped. At stores with touch-and-go, customers can press their cards to the reader. The payment will processed automatically.

Citizens operates branches in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and has non-branch offices in more than 30 states.

On the Net:

AP-ES-02-22-06 1306EST

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