A Buyer’s Guide (Part 3)
If you’ve read part 2 of the ATM Machines, A Buyers Guide, you’re ready for part 3. Now you know if you want an automatic teller machine at your place of business or if you want to own and operate ATM machines as a business.
Let’s say you own a local brick and mortar business, but you don’t want to purchase the machine outright, you basically have three alternatives: leasing the ATM or arranging payments over time, opting for a free ATM placement program, or partnering in an ATM co-op program.
First, Leasing: Hardly anyone leases an ATM anymore. Most sales reps that try to lease ATM’s are looking for big commissions. It’s difficult to get a lease on a $2500 piece of equipment so they have to jack the price way up to get a leasing company to even consider it and then you’re paying them big commissions. It’s actually easier, cheaper and better to pay for the ATM with a credit card or to ask your bank for an equipment loan to include other equipment you may need in your business and to include the price of the ATM in the loan
First, if you really want to lease an ATM, (I’d like to talk you out of it) but you may need to search the Internet (or the yellow pages) for leasing companies located reasonably close to your business or get a recommendation from the vendor. Try sampling a few such companies to find the most favorable leasing terms – each company’s agreement will be different to some extent, but most leases go 5 years. First, and most importantly, you want to figure out who’s offering the lowest cost for a lease. Also, who determines how much your customers will have to pay in ATM fees to make your lease payment each month so you don’t have negative cash flow. Leasing companies will rarely over fund the equipment lease to give you extra cash to fill the ATM. Some business owners think this is a great idea, but the cost of that extra cash is very high and not worthwhile.
You should also compare the economics of leasing versus buying to be absolutely sure that you’d prefer to lease. Specifically, you should weigh the following factors:
- If you’re planning on leasing a machine for a long time it would save you a lot of money in the long run just to purchase one.
- If you can take out a loan at your bank verses leasing, that is the next best option instead.
- Note that some vendors offer short term funding options such as 60 or 90 days. Since most ATM’s these days are typically under $2400 most business owners pay cash or use a credit card, however, we have seen deals where a merchant is able to put 50% down on a credit card and float the balance for 30 days.
- Would buying an ATM allow you a substantial tax deduction – or could you get more tax deduction mileage out of deducting the annual costs of leasing an ATM?
- Does it seem as though you’d stand to make a lot of money from ATM surcharge fees? If so, then owning an ATM might be the more lucrative proposition.
Second, Free Placement Programs: The next option for you as a business owner may be to consider entering into a free ATM placement program. If you’ve never heard of this option, you should know that free ATM programs have been around for a long time. What you have to do is find either a local or national ATM vendor that runs such a program and fill out an application.
Free placement programs typically require that your business needs to be attracting a certain number of customers each day in order for you to earn acceptance. If you’re accepted, the vendor will ship an ATM to your business, install it, maintain it and service it as needed. Some free programs even take care of restocking the cash in the cash dispenser for you. In addition, you may qualify to receive some portion of the surcharges that the ATM collects, which the vendor will send you either through direct deposit or in the form of a check.
All in all, a free program is, no doubt, the easiest way for business owners to obtain an ATM. However, the profit potential from such a system, obviously, is much lower. Note, too, that companies offering free placement ATM’s will require a substantial amount of information about you and your business (they will even be delving into your bank account figures) before they approve you for such a program. While the free placement program sounds great, it takes the longest to get approved and returns the least amount of profit. The pros are that you don’t have to deal with the ATM machine at all. It may be easier to get approved from a small local company verses a large national company if you can find such a local entrepreneur willing to take on your business as part of their ATM portfolio.
Third, Co-Op Program: The last option to consider and a bit newer, is to enter into an ATM co-operative program. Under such an arrangement, you’d buy half the ATM and load the cash. That is, you’d be co-owner of the machine, paying for half of the upfront cost and half of all the operating and repair costs.
An ATM vendor, the other co-owner, would pay the other half of those costs. In a way, this kind of program splits the difference between owning an ATM yourself and getting a free placement or owning the ATM outright. That is, you get a much larger share of the profits verse a free placement program would allow, but you also have more maintenance responsibilities. And, you’d get a lot less than if you owned the ATM outright yourself.
While co-op agreements, like leasing agreements, can vary widely, if you’re in such a program you’ll probably have to replace the receipt paper, load the cash as necessary and provide first line maintenance (FLM). FLM includes clearing a paper receipt jam or a cash jam. The co-op deal is more suited to a hands on business owner or manager who doesn’t necessarily have enough cash to purchase the machine outright. By the way, it’s your own cash that will go into the machine. And you’ll have to decide if you want o install any security features – a new camera or an alarm, for example or if you’ll just remove the cash from the ATM each evening like a cash register.
An extra benefit of the co-op program, however, is that the ATM vendor can figure out where to place the machine within your business, and can also provide you with helpful advice when you’re still a novice at ATM operations. That way, you can really maximize the profits you’ll get from your ATM. In some instances you can agree to a buyout over time if the vendor is in agreement.
Once you decide if you want to own the ATM or have someone else do it, it’s time to decide who is going to load the cash. We’ll talk about that in the next ATM Machines, A Buyer’s Guide in the near future. Have questions, contact us.