Cardless ATMs: Technology for technology’s sake

I use ATMs. I use them with relative frequency.  I probably visit an ATM once a week (whether at home or while traveling).  And when I do, I’m either driving through a branch ATM or walking to a known surcharge-free location.  I use my debit card and in less than sixty seconds the ATM is dispensing cash and I’m on my way. It’s a simple transaction.  My wife and I both use ATMs. Our seventeen-year old son uses his card at ATMs.

I make reference to my seventeen-year old son for the purpose of roping in the younger generations.  Let’s face it, I’m a Gen Xer. So, I’m a bit out of touch with what’s new and hip (insert laughing emoji).  Being in the financial industry though, I am very comfortable with new technology. And very eager to try new technology. Especially when it involves the payment realm.  

However, one form of transaction still perplexes me.  Technology is supposed to speed up a process or enhance a process.  Replacing one technology with another, just for the sake of technology does not make a situation better.  Thus, my frustration with the cardless ATM transaction. Let me break it down for you.

I approach an ATM.  I pull out my debit card and use it for a cash withdrawal at an ATM.  The process takes about sixty seconds depending on my ability to navigate the screen prompts and the speed of the ATM.  Easy enough right? Now let’s perform a cardless ATM withdrawal. I’m at my desk and open an app on my phone, sign in with my face or a passcode and go through prompts to select an amount for withdrawal.  I then drive to a specific ATM that can facilitate my cardless ATM transaction. I pull out my mobile device, open the app and present the barcode or QR code to the ATM. The ATM starts prompting me to wait a and in a few moments I have my cash.  

So, why am I perplexed by this technology?  I didn’t save any time. In fact, I may have only created friction.  It took me thirty seconds to stage the transaction on my phone. Then another thirty once I arrived at the ATM.  But, I still had to punch all the usual buttons. Only now I’m using two devices instead of one. And the idea of me staging an ATM transaction at my desk is a little far-fetched.

Studies show that, more and more, mobile device users are using them while driving.  We are all guilty of it. And what better time to stage an ATM withdrawal then on the way to the ATM.  We’re inviting a new danger into the ATM withdrawal. The National Safety Council reports that mobile phone use while behind the wheel leads to over 1.5 million accidents annually.  In fact, one out of four accidents are caused by drivers distracted by their mobile devices. And you cannot argue that a cardless ATM withdrawal is safer because of less time spent at the physical ATM.  You still need to walk or pull up to the ATM, roll your window down and wait.

So, there’s no significant increase in safety.  And you’re not really saving any time. You’re simply splitting the transaction into two events.  I would rather my credit union invest capital dollars elsewhere.

Joe Woods

Joe Woods

Joe Woods, CUDE is a 15-year credit union veteran.  He has spent time with Corporate One FCU, Liberty Enterprises, co-founded Legacy Member Services and was part of the senior management ... Web: Details