There’s only one certainty in the future for ATMs and that’s change.
Some experts question if ATMs even have a future, given the growing switch to cardless payments, internet banking and new payment technologies which don’t have the same annoying fees. Plus there are forecasts that some countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, could soon become cashless societies
Indeed, cash is so out of favour in Sweden
that many banks don't even have ATMs and some have stopped handling cash altogether. Children reportedly get their pocket money on bank cards and churches circulate a card scanning machine to collect donations.
Over the years, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and other bodies have continued to report a drop in the proportion of consumers in Australia using cash. Yet cash
remains the most common form of payment in Australia, especially for transactions under $50 and almost always for those under $10.
ATM use falling
According to Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) data
, ATM cash withdrawals have also fallen from 67.6 billion to 63.3 billion between December 2012 and July 2014.
But despite the rise in smartphone banking and the launch of ever more exciting mobile payment apps, more ATMs are springing up.
According to the Australian Payments Clearing Association
, there were 31,829 ATMs across Australia in June 2015. That’s up from 30,544 at the same time last year and a massive jump from 4,073 in 1989.Yes. Their numbers may fall in Australia in the wake of less use of cash, as the RBA recently predicted
. But have reports of the ATM’s death been greatly exaggerated?
ATMs keep costs down
Many experts believe so, noting that banks may actually increasingly push customers towards using ATMs because of their low costs when compared to those of using tellers and having branches, and as they strive to give consumers as much choice as possible and a seamless “omnichannel” experience.
So instead of disbanding their ATMs, banks may add more value-added features and functionality to their ATMs, this is already happening.
Some Bank of America ATMs now connect you to virtual tellers, for example. If you want, they will allow you to video chat with a remote teller in a call centre.
Research group RFi reports that in the US, Wells Fargo customers can make envelope-free deposits, buy sheets of stamps, see or print statements, transfer funds between accounts and make credit card payments.
These trends, says RFi, suggest the ATM’s primary role has evolved from a simple cash dispenser to a channel that is designed to meet consumers’ increasing need for convenience and flexibility.
New breed of ATMs to come
The ATMs of tomorrow are likely to use biometric technology to identify customers through their fingerprints, voice or eyes. They will also connect with smartphone apps and wearables
. They will have access to a lot more information about you and be able to tailor their services to your needs. They could also offer many more features.
In Latin America
, for example, the typical ATM has 50 to 75 features, compared with 25 in the US. They allow people to pay water, phone and electricity bills, and even to pay to view a soccer match on their televisions at home. In the UK, people can top up their phone balance or contribute to charity via cash points.
Indeed, the ATMs of the future may not even offer cash because cash is costly for banks to transport and protect. Instead, they might pump out some digital cash into your phone, watch or chip implant.
Furthermore, there’s no reason why ATMs need to look the same as they do today. Perhaps in the future they will be far smaller, look like a human or even operate as a comfortable cubicle that you can sit in while you chat with your virtual teller. They might themselves be mobile and move to areas of high demand or even come to you when you need them.
This article represents the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BPAY.
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