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One advantage of persuading recent immigrants from Latin American countries to open checking accounts in the United States is that financial institutions do not have to work as hard to convince those new customers to write fewer checks, Rebeca Vargas, senior vice president of multicultural marketing at JPMorgan Chase & Co., tells CardLine sister publication Cards&Payments. As in many parts of the world, check writing is not common in Latin America for most consumer payments, Vargas says. Most low-income consumers in Latin America without bank accounts conduct their financial affairs in an all-cash economy, and higher-income consumers in Latin America tend to treat banks as places to park their money for saving, not for conducting payments, she says. "People in the U.S. are used to paying by check and mailing their payments," Vargas adds. "But in Latin America, the mail service is not as safe as it is in the U.S." Brenda Yost, senior vice president of Wells Fargo & Co. card services, agrees that lack of past check use is an advantage for promoting debit card use. But, she tells Cards&Payments, those recent immigrants who were unbanked in Latin America tend to use their new debit cards only at ATMs to withdraw cash from their accounts. They use the cash to pay for goods at points of sale and use checks for rent and other large, recurring bills. Eventually, many of those customers gradually expand their debit card use to points of sale, too, Yost adds. "It's like in the U.S. when we first started using ATMs," she says. "Then customers became comfortable using debit cards for buying groceries and gas. You see the same kind of pattern."

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