The Future of Cash: Is the ATM Business Dying?

Is the ATM business dying? The short answer: No. As long as there is cash, there will be ATM machines. 

Not only is cash not going away anytime soon, cash is the most widely accessible payment form. ATMs are needed to keep it that way. Digital payment systems have their place, but so does cash. People love to have options. And they don’t react positively when their choices are taken away.

Cash has been around for about 3,000 years. It won’t disappear overnight. There is actually more currency in circulation now than ever before because of the uncertainty caused by Covid-19 the past year.

Although cash payments may be declining, ATM machines can adapt (and already have been) to an increasingly digital society. So as the needs of the consumer evolve, so too will ATM machines. And you’ll want to be there when they do. 

Digital Payment Systems

There are many alternatives to cash payments. Obviously there is the option to pay with a debit or credit card. You have Automatic Clearing House (ACH) payments directly from a bank account. Your employer likely pays you via direct deposit. 

There are services like PayPal that allow you to make purchases online without even having to enter your payment information each time. Many apps like CashApp, Venmo, and Zelle have been developed to transfer small amounts of money between friends and family when cash isn’t readily accessible. And of course you’ve surely heard the buzz about cryptocurrency.

With all of these payment options, where does cash fit in? It’s enough to make you wonder, Is the ATM business dying?

But cash, like digital payment systems, has its benefits and disadvantages. That’s why we need them both: to keep our options open. 

Drawbacks of Digital Payment Systems

Digital payment systems definitely have their place. They’re efficient and flexible. It’s the only way ecommerce works. You can pay for goods and services with the click of a button. However, there are some drawbacks.

First, it’s risky. Card numbers can be compromised, crypto wallets can be hacked. Digital transactions aren’t tangible, so it’s not easy to keep track of. However, your digital transactions aren’t untraceable.

There is proof of your purchases on receipts, in your email, on your bank statement. Your bank accounts and crypto wallets have your name on them and other personal information attached. This increases the risk of identity theft.

Second, cryptocurrency is extremely volatile right now. There is a lot to learn, and although it isn’t going anywhere, no one is sure what its future looks like. Furthermore, most cryptocurrencies aren’t federally backed, which adds to its risk.

Third, digital payment systems contribute to the digital divide. The digital divide refers to the inaccessibility of the Internet for a certain portion of the population. Not everyone has access to reliable Internet, and not everyone who does have access has the literacy necessary to manage finances digitally. This is a huge disadvantage for those in rural areas, low-income households, and the elderly.

Additionally, mobile payments require the use of a smartphone. Only 85% of Americans own a smartphone. While that may seem like a lot, and it is, 15% is also a lot when you think about the thousands of people for whom mobile payments, online banking apps, and constant access to the Internet aren’t an option. 

So while there are some benefits to digital payment systems, they aren’t perfect, and they exclude certain demographics.

Benefits of Cash

It’s anonymous, it’s stable, and it’s accepted pretty much anywhere (and by anyone).

Quick

There are many obvious benefits to cash. First of all, it’s immediate. When you pay with cash, the recipient doesn’t have to wait for a transaction to process, they don’t have to bother with insufficient funds, and you don’t have to worry about overdrawing your account or accruing interest on a credit card transaction. The money is paid. That’s it. It’s done.

Physical

Second, cash is physical. It hurts just a little bit more when you pay for something with cash because you can see and feel the money leaving your side. This can help you be more conscious of your spending habits. It also makes it easier for you to keep track of. You don’t have to worry about hackers getting access to your stash remotely.

Accessible

Third, it’s accessible. Everyone—rich or poor, young or old—has access to cash. You don’t have to be tech savvy or connected to the Internet to manage your cash. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this year, that’s good news for the 7% of U.S. adults who don’t use the Internet.

As long as there are unbanked and underbanked people, there will be cash. About 6% of Americans are unbanked while 16% are underbanked. Unbanked people do not have a banking relationship. They either don’t have enough money to bother with an account, can’t keep up with the fees, or just don’t trust banks.

Without a bank account, these people must rely on alternative financial products and services (payday loans, check cashing services, prepaid cards, etc.). They are able to purchase prepaid cards and use them at ATMs without the fear of incurring an overdraft fee if the funds aren’t available.

Underbanked Americans might have a checking and/or savings account but might also rely on alternative financial services. The FDIC’s 2019 How America Banks survey found that 95% (124 million) of U.S. households have at least one bank account. 

That is both the highest number and percent since the survey was first conducted in 2009. That’s good news for cash and ATMs. 

Private

Finally, there is a certain degree of privacy with cash payments. Average cash transactions can’t be tracked, and aside from a paper receipt that can easily be discarded, there is no paper or digital trail. We won’t go into all of the hypothetical scenarios where this might be useful, but many people still value their privacy especially since there is so little of it online.

It is better, easier, and safer to use cash for purchases under $20 to minimize the risk of identity theft.

The Payment Choice Act of 2021

There are some businesses that have chosen to go cashless. However, to keep this from becoming a trend and excluding those who only have access to cash, Congress passed the Payment Choice Act of 2021.

This Act prohibits retail businesses that accept in-person payments from refusing cash. This protects the consumer’s right to use cash at retail businesses.

On the other hand, there are many businesses that encourage cash payments because they are charged fees for every credit card transaction they process. Cash payments also decrease their rate of chargeback fees which saves businesses money as well.

The Future of ATM Machines

Although cash payments are decreasing, it isn’t because cash isn’t valuable. It’s just because there are so many more options. There is more currency in circulation than ever before.

The current environment in light of Covid-19 has made ATM machines more necessary than ever. Banks are limiting traffic in their lobbies to keep up with social distancing protocols and for the overall health of their customers. ATMs allow customers to access their accounts with limited personal interaction, which is appreciated by more and more people these days.

ATMs serve other purposes, too. They not only allow users to make deposits and withdrawals, they also provide business owners with other marketing opportunities. Offering ATM access in their stores increases foot traffic, impulse purchases, and overall business.

ATMs can be fitted with toppers to run ads, screens are getting bigger to accommodate advertising, and coupons can be printed on receipts to encourage future purchases.

ATMs are also starting to feature Bitcoin capabilities. So if you get into the ATM business now, there’s no telling what opportunities lie ahead. Your business will be able to grow with the times if cryptocurrency is something you are interested in.

Is the ATM Business Dying?

Although there are many digital payment options available, cash is still a winning option for a number of reasons. Cash payments are decreasing, but that’s just because more and more transactions are happening online. It doesn’t mean those are the only transactions happening. 

In order for cash to be completely eliminated, it would have to be by government decree. Since the government easily collects taxes on currency, it isn’t likely that a decree like this will happen anytime soon.

So to answer the burning question, “Is the ATM business dying,” we can confidently say, “No.” Cash still plays a very important role in our society. Therefore, there is still a need for ATMs. There might even be more need now as people shift from in-person bank business due to Covid-19 precautions.

Even IF cash is phased out completely, it won’t happen in our lifetime. Therefore, you are safe to invest in ATM machines and start making passive income!

What Makes a Good Entrepreneur? 9 Qualities You Need to Run an ATM Business

What makes a good entrepreneur? Are desirable qualities the same for every industry? Well, yes and no. Some qualities will help you no matter what your entrepreneurial endeavor is. Others might vary depending on the requirements of your specific business.

For example, leadership and team-building are generally considered good skills to have if you plan to run a business. But most independent ATM deployers (IADs) work alone. So while those are good qualities to have, you don’t have to spend as much time developing those skills as you do some others that you will need immediately.

Due to the nature of the ATM business and the tasks you’ll have to perform, there are some skills you need to have. To make sure you have what it takes to run an ATM business, strengthen these 9 qualities.

1. Professional

Whether you own your own ATM, place ATMs for others, or sell ATM machines to other business owners, you are a businessperson. So you have to act like one. This is how you will continue to get people to work with you and can continue to run a successful business. 

Presentation

First, you have to be professional in the way you present yourself. How do you approach location owners to negotiate a space for an ATM machine? Do you show up prepared with ATM business flyers? Do you have ATM business cards to leave behind? 

Professional moves like these show that you are serious, can be trusted, and are worth working with. Professionalism is also how you will get referrals. Word-of-mouth marketing is the best kind because your credibility is established by the referrer, and it doesn’t cost you anything to market yourself this way!

You might also want to think carefully about your business name. When you start your business, you can register as a sole proprietor under a “doing business as” (DBA) business name. Or, to gain instant credibility, you can see if your ATM processor will license you the rights to their name. Associating yourself with a well-known name in the ATM business that your leads can research will boost your reputation.

Behavior

Second, you want to act professionally toward your prospects and partners. When making negotiations, make sure you respect the needs and wants of all parties involved. And when you promise to assume certain responsibilities, make sure you follow through.

If you promise to refill your ATMs with cash and receipt paper, make sure you do so. If you promise to take care of technical issues should the machine malfunction, make sure you do that too. And do it in a timely manner. You aren’t the only one relying on the machines to operate. Your customers and the location owners rely on them too. So don’t let them down.

2. Decisive

Although you are probably a one-man/woman-band as an IAD, there are still a lot of decisions you need to make for your business. 

First, you have to decide where you’re going to place your machines. Where is there a market gap (or need) for ATM access? Where will a machine do really well? How long will your lease agreement be for?

Then, you have to decide what equipment to purchase. Will you order a new or refurbished machine? Do you want a free-standing or through-the-wall (TTW) machine? Will you purchase insurance? What extra features and upgrades do you want? 

You might realize that some decisions need to be made immediately while others can wait. You might want to run your machine for a while before determining what extra features will optimize your machine. How much are you going to charge customers to use the machine? You want the surcharge to be high enough that you make a worthwhile profit, but not so high that you drive away customers. Where is that sweet spot?

Will you start with a higher surcharge and then lower it once you make your return on investment (ROI)? Or will you start low to draw a lot of customers and then raise it gradually?

And who is going to take care of each responsibility associated with running the machine? Who will load the cash? Who will make service calls? How often will you visit the machine? When will it be cleaned and who will clean it? You have to decide which responsibilities you are willing to shoulder, which responsibilities you want to delegate, and which services you want to pay for.

If things don’t go according to the original plan, you also have to decide what changes to make along the way.

3. Creative Thinker

Despite all of the best and most careful planning, there are likely to be curveballs, and you will have to get creative and make changes as necessary. 

Your ATM may not perform as well as you anticipated, for example. This might be due to the location not being as busy as you expected, or maybe the surcharge is too high. Maybe there is another ATM close by that is competing with yours. If this is the case, you will have to consider moving to a new location, adjusting the surcharge, or both.  

The site location owner might make some decisions or pose some requests that you will want to consider to maintain the relationship. He or she might want to use an ATM topper for ad space. Or the store might be moving to a new location. Will you follow or look for a new location sooner than you expected?

No matter what your plan is, remember that you have to remain flexible with it in order to be successful. When a challenge arises, use creative thinking to figure out the best solution.

4. Risk-Taker

To start a business, you have to be a risk-taker. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You can’t predict everything, and your plans can change at a moment’s notice. 

That can be scary when you invest your hard-earned money into a new business venture. But people do it every day. Starting an ATM business requires minimal start-up costs when compared to other business models. And you can make money immediately after set-up. So don’t let fear keep you from taking the next step in starting your ATM business.

5. Perseverant 

You are going to need perseverance when the going gets tough. To be successful, you can’t give up when challenges and obstacles arise. 

The first obstacle to overcome when starting an ATM business is the paperwork! It is relatively simple, but the number of documents that need to be completed can be overwhelming. Just prepare yourself early and take it one step at a time. Once it’s over, you can order and place your equipment and start making money.

You also need to exercise perseverance when negotiating a location for your ATM machines. It might take multiple visits, phone calls, emails, business cards, etc. to get in touch with local business owners and coordinate meetings to discuss your proposal.

And of course, don’t give up if your machine doesn’t do as well as you expected. You can always try another location or adjust the surcharge. You might also try to get creative with your marketing to boost traffic.

6. Knowledgeable 

Of course, you need to know about the service you offer. However, you don’t have to be an expert. At least not at the beginning. At the beginning, you need to be open to learning. That is how you eventually become an expert. 

You might need to rely on your ATM processor and technicians for support when you’re getting started. But once you get your questions answered, you can begin to take over some of those duties yourself as you learn more and more.

You might need to do some research to determine what equipment is right for you. And that’s okay. The more research you do, the more you learn, and the closer you come to being an expert. You can also watch videos to learn strategies and tips along the way.

7. Ethical

You want to make sure you are an ethical business owner. This will keep people wanting to work with you. 

When you negotiate a location for your ATM and develop the site location agreement (SLA), keep your partner’s interests in mind. Come up with a proposal that is fair and meets the needs of all parties involved.

Keep your surcharge fair, too. It’s okay to set a competitive surcharge; you are, after all, running a business. But don’t set it so high that your customers get a bad deal. That’s not the kind of business you want to run.

Finally, you want to maintain a strong work ethic. The ATM business isn’t extremely demanding, but it does require a bit of work. Don’t get lazy. Stick to a schedule, keep your promises, be consistent, and your business is sure to succeed. 

8. Goal-Oriented

Your goals will drive any endeavor. Without goals, you risk losing momentum, and it’s easy to give up. Once you get comfortable operating one machine, you might find that you’re ready to deploy more. Six to ten machines later, you might find that you’re getting closer and closer to reaching your income goals.

Do you want to quit your day job and enjoy the flexibility of running ATM machines exclusively? Then you might need to scale your business and plan to add more ATMs to your route. Just want a little extra cash to supplement your current income? Then focus on that!

No matter what your goals are, make sure you’ve identified them and keep them in focus. This will drive you. Along with your passion for the business.

9. Passionate

The more passionate you are about what you do, the more enjoyable it will be, and the more successful you will become. Location owners will turn you down. Friends and family will shake their heads at your ideas. But if you are passionate, you will be able to move past all of that and keep going until you reach your goals.

Your competitors will be passionate. They will be networking, scaling, providing good service, and if you plan to keep up, you have to meet that passion with your own. 

Your passion will bleed into your work, others will see it, and success will follow.

What Makes a Good Entrepreneur?

So what makes a good entrepreneur? The list goes on and on. Of course there are more than 9 qualities that successful business people possess. But we’ve singled out some of the most important qualities that you will need to run a successful ATM business. Before you dive in, ask yourself, “Do I have what makes a good entrepreneur?” If the answer is yes, then head over to ATMDepot.com and find out how to get started in the ATM business!