NEW YORK (AP) _ As banks race to embrace ever-faster communication technology, MasterCard International is making it a little more convenient to send a conventional letter.

MasterCard on Wednesday disclosed plans to sell postage stamps through Cirrus, its network of automatic teller machines at almost 315,000 locations around the world.

Beginning this spring, Cirrus cardholders will be able to buy stamps in a transaction similar to getting cash at an ATM, with the money deducted from the customer's account as stamps are dispensed from the machine.

It's part of a larger strategy to vastly expand the types of services available at Cirrus machines. Also envisioned are ATM sales of such things as prepaid telephone calling cards, theater tickets and travelers checks.

``This is a long-term strategy to change the face of what the traditional ATM has been,'' G. Henry Mundt III, executive vice president for global deposit access at MasterCard, said in a telephone interview.

``In the next 12 to 18 months, you'll see a whole range of products and services that will begin to appear at Cirrus ATMs.''

Some banks already sell stamps through their private ATM systems and charge customers a small fee for the service. MasterCard will make the service available to any institution in the Cirrus network. For a fee, Mundt said, a bank can modify its Cirrus machines to perform additional functions.