ATM Machines, A Buyer’s Guide

ATM Machine Buyer’s Guide (Part 1) 

ATM Machine Buyers Guide image of CashOur hope is that this ATM Machine Buyer’s Guide helps you navigate some of the known pitfalls in the business. This will be a three part series. Be sure to click the next part in the series at the bottom of each post when you’re ready to proceed.

All kinds of businesses now maintain automatic teller machines, including supermarkets and  restaurants. That’s because ATM’s offer several benefits to business owners.

When you set up an ATM inside your establishment, you may see a spike in the number of your customers. And, with that source of money at hand, some of your customers may be inclined to spend more money. In addition, you might also find that you start receiving fewer checks which means less risk at the point of sale. Of course, you’ll also end up paying fewer processing fees for credit cards as well. But what things should you know before you go out and purchase one or more of these machines?

First, do some research and a few calculations before you contact an ATM vendor. Figure out, roughly, how many people come into your business on an average day. If that number is fewer than 150, and certainly if it’s fewer than 100, getting an ATM may not have an attractive ROI, however the other benefits may be what you’re looking for.  Just because you have minimal traffic in your location doesn’t mean your ATM won’t be worth the investment.

We’ve been in the ATM business for over 2 decades now and we’ve seen over the past few years that the general rule of thumb for the number of monthly transactions that your ATM will perform is relative to the the number of people that come into your establishment plus or minus a factor of 10% – 15% depending on the location, type of establishment and several other factors.

If for example you have a high end restaurant with table cloths and a bar, your ATM machine will perform much lower than these averages since this type of clientele typically pays with a credit card. If however you have a quick service restaurant, a bar and grill, local tavern, a nightclub or even a commercial building or parking lot we have seen these types of locations do very well, especially if the business does not accept credit cards. We have also seen customers convert from credit and debit cards to ATM usage with the implementation of coupons or other incentives for use.

One of the best ways to tell if buying an ATM for your location is right for you is to speak to your customers. Ask them if they’d be interested in using an ATM if you had one at your place, or if you often get requests or if customers ask where the nearest ATM machines is, that is a good indication that it would be a wise investment.  Obviously, if you get some positive feedback from your clients, you can advance to the next step: figuring out what kind of automatic teller machine to purchase.

Free Standing Hantle Tranax 1700W ATM MachineThe most common kind of ATM is the kind that stands up on its own, also known as a “free standing ATM”.  These free standing ATM machines require approx 3 sq ft in front of them for ADA compliance (about 36″ for a wheel chair). The machines themselves have a very small foot print and run anywhere from 14″ x 14″ up to 20″ x 20″ still relatively very little floor space for the return on investment.  Even with the diminutive size of the newest free standing ATM machines, if you don’t think you have enough room, you might opt for some of the newest tabletop or counter top models.
Alternatively, you may even consider purchasing an ATM that’s inserted into a wall (also known as a Thru-the-Wall “TTW” model), although this is often a great option for a place of business to plan for during tenant improvements, it is still fairly easy to cut a hole in a wall and retrofit it for a TTW ATM. While these thru-the-wall ATM machines costs a little more than the free standing machines, they are perfect for exterior installations such as sidewalk facing locations or locations facing a parking lot or a busy downtown location.

The Amazing Money MachineThese machines typically have much higher usage since they are exposed to walk by traffic 24 hours a day. If you are considering a TTW ATM, you’ll still need to consider space for the inside part of the ATM which is typically less than a free standing ATM since the ADA portion of the ATM is outside and usually unobstructed. While it is more expensive to install a TTW unit due to the additional construction costs you’ll also need to consider the timing of the install to minimize the noise and descriptiveness of the construction which can typically be completed in a weekend.

TTW ATM Machine GenmegaAnother choice is the outdoor ATM. (These ATM’s may also be inserted into a wall.) Outdoor ATM’s can be used 24 hours a day, and therefore they let you collect ATM fees 24 hours a day! This option, obviously, will save you interior space, too. A downside to an outdoor ATM however, is that depending on the location, your outdoor ATM may require proper lighting so people will feel safe using the ATM; and, depending on the area, you may consider some sort of surveillance cameras. Most outdoor ATM machines are weather protected but if you want the highest possible usage, you’d be smart to consider some kind of protection from the weather for the ATM users, again depending on the type of deployment and the weather in the area. While outdoor ATM’s can be more expensive to keep up, they typically have much higher usage and therefor justify the expense.

Keeping your motivation in mind, this ATM Machine Buyer’s guide is meant to help you not only decide if an ATM is right for you as a business, but is it right for the location where you’re going to put it, and, will your customers use it. If you’re main motivation is to offset credit card fees, almost certainly a free standing ATM will help with that. If you’re motivation is to make more money just from the ATM usage, a thru-the-wall  machine available 24 hours will product much more profit in the right installation.

Your ATM decision-making process doesn’t stop there. A list of other questions you need to answer would include: See ATM Machines, A Buyer’s Guide part 2.

How to Steal Money from an ATM

How to Steal Money from an ATM

Stealing money from an ATM machine? Does that really happen?

While that does sound like a ridiculous attempted feat given the level of security that ATM machines have, there are some potential criminals who still try to find and exploit any weaknesses in an ATM’s system in order to gain access.

Stealing money from an ATM machine is undoubtedly an attempt that has been tried numerous times. But much to the would-be criminal’s chagrin, it is to no avail. There aren’t any successful ATM heists that you will likely read about in your local newspapers. There won’t be any television news reports about how savvy criminals got away with successfully removing the money from any ATM machine. It just doesn’t happen, and for good reason, no doubt.

Owner and Their Machines

When ATM owners initially set up their cash machines, they are advised to invest in equipment that has the latest software technology, physical locks and vaults and other enhancements that would deter criminal activity. Since most well-made ATM machines generally have safeguards in place as basic features, it behooves the owner to ensure that their machines do in fact have proper security. ATM machine owners can take solace in knowing that the machines have durable, comprehensive security cabinets and vaults that have been made to meet proper standards.

There are two prominent types of security that you will find present on most machines. These are the Business Hours security vault and the 24 Hours Level security vault. Both types of protection offer the owner different protection levels, but basically have the same security. Different business environments and traffic levels will dictate what the best fit may be for the protection levels.

Machines built for ATM needs are known as the UL 291 Standard, which are designed by Underwriters Laboratories. The company is responsible for rating and product-testing consumer goods like home appliances and electrical goods. Investing in a UL 291 Standard ensures that the machine is well-designed to withstand attacks and to protect the contents of the machine.

Business Hours ATM Vault

The Business Hours ATM machines are designed to hold and protect cash where transactions are made during normal business hours. In these instances, there is usually someone on the premises like a manager or an owner who can monitor the machine during the day. Therefore, at the end of the business day, the cash is safely removed from the machine and moved to other locations.

24-Hour Level 1 ATM Vault

The design and structure of the 24 Hour Level 1 ATM machine is designed to withstand inordinate amounts of potential attacks, drilling or any maneuver launched in an attempt to try and gain access to the system. About 300 pounds is what these machines generally weigh, and are also designed to withstand physical pressure loads of up to 50,000 psi.

Foil the Criminal

There are substantially hefty fines and possible jail time that are associated with any criminal activity associated with tampering with ATM machines. This alone is sometimes enough to discourage any would-be criminal. But even the possibility of being caught and punished, it’s is still not enough of a deterrent for some criminal-minded individuals. Thankfully for ATM owners, however, the ATM machines are now equipped with specialized internal and external equipment and enhanced software that can make the machines virtually impossible to steal. The machines are sometimes even bolted down in the area where they’re found, in order to discourage theft. Even in the unlikely event that the thief successfully unmounts the machine from its foundation, it is virtually impossible for him to penetrate the machine to break it in order to get to its cash content. In some cases, even the attempt is punishable by law and the individual can be incarcerated.

How to Protect Your ATM PIN Number

Protect Your ATM PINYour ATM access is secured through a private PIN number that you designate once you open your account. Your banking institution will advise you on selecting a PIN that’s relevant to you, but one that will be hard for others to guess what it may be. Selecting this PIN must be a careful process so that it’s easy for you to remember, but harder for someone else to figure out. Choosing number selections like 1-2-3-4 or 9-9-9-9 are strongly advised against since they’re easily guessed. Instead, it’s best to choose a combination of numbers that correspond to something that no one knows about. For instance, you can choose:

  •  a family member’s birth year, i.e., 1972 (your last child), 1935 (your dad’s).
  •  your car’s model year (1998).
  • your house number, with a “0” at the beginning or the end (#113 Elm Street would be 0113 as the PIN).
  • the first four digits in your driver’s license number. Notice that it’s the first numbers and not the last four numbers as a suggestion.

Remember that whatever number combination you choose should be hard to guess for someone else. Stay away from the obvious PIN number selections that would make it easy for someone to hack. This includes:

  • the last four digits of your social security number.
  • the last four numbers in your home phone number or your cell number.
  • your birth year (choosing another family member is better).

Once a person has access to your ATM PIN number, they can use it to access your financial account, whether they have the card or not. They can use that number to make online transactions and some offline transactions as well. Therefore it’s always advisable to protect your card and card number at all times. Here are some tips on how to protect your PIN at all times:

  •  Do Not Write It Down

Be sure that you do not write your PIN number on your ATM card. This is a just an open invitation to someone to take all of your money! Although it may seem that this will make it convenient for you to remember the number, it’s a bad idea in any case because it’s completely unsecure. Do not write the PIN number anywhere on the card, front or back. Also, don’t write the number on a piece of paper and attach it to the card, which is just as bad. Commit the number to memory, period.

  • Cover It Up

Protect your PIN number anytime and anywhere where you’re using it. This means when you’re making a purchase and you’re swiping your card, or when you’re making a withdrawal at an ATM machine. Cover up your hand as you press in your PIN number on the keypad machine. Block the other person(s) view with your body while you’re keying in your PIN number. Use the end cap of a pencil or an ink pen to key in the numbers while you’re using a machine. Be creative while you’re being protective. Make it absolutely the hardest thing possible for anyone to decipher what numbers you’re keying in when you’re using your ATM card.

  •  Stay Organized

Right after you’ve finished using your ATM card, put it right back into the place in your wallet or purse where you normally keep it. Consistency is the best way to guard against accidents or even theft while you’re using your ATM card. If you simply throw the card down into your purse as you rush away from the machine, you’re more likely to lose it or forget where you’ve put it. By staying organized and consistent, you’re more likely to guard against card theft or accidental losses. Keep your card in the same, consistent place at all times. Being consistent will give you peace of mind because you’ll know exactly where everything is at all times.

Your PIN number should be regarded as a very personal, private and really important piece of information. Always keep it safe, keep it private, don’t ever share it and make it hard for anyone else to decipher.

ATM Scams

ATM Thefts and ATM Scams

ATM ScamsATM thefts and ATM money scams are unfortunately very real and are very devastating to the victim of these horrible crimes. The organization Global ATM Security Alliance reportedly states that out of all of the crimes and frauds committed worldwide, about .0016% of them are ATM transactions. Everything to do with money theft from stolen checks, to stolen credit cards to having your ATM debit card stolen is unnerving and unsettling. In the end, you often feel very violated because something very personal has been taken away from you.

ATM card thefts are very common because unlike credit cards, thieves can easily use them since they give them access instantaneously to your cash, without the need for authorization or a signature, like with a credit card. A pin number is all that a money thief needs to access your ATM card, and in some cases, they can still access your bank account without it. If they’re shopping online or through a retailer who doesn’t require any identification verification, the thief can simply produce the ATM card and access your money or use the card to purchase goods or services.

What kinds of ATM scams are there?

Is it just your ATM card in danger, or your entire bank account?

What can you do to protect yourself from these scams and theft situations?

Fake, Fake, Fake

When it comes to ATM access, thieves will try just about anything to gain access to your money. A fake ATM machine and/or a fake PIN pad are just two things they will try and use to do this. Thieves may use a wireless video camera that’s mounted inside of the ATM area that’s looks as harmless as perhaps a brochure holder or a shelf. The tiny camera hidden inside of this contraption is actually recording the numbers from your ATM card. Magnetic strips are easy to duplicate, and once the thieves have your information from your card, they can have another ATM easily reproduced.

Stop the possibility of this happening by paying close attention to your surroundings. Get into and make it a habit of going to and using the same ATM machine for all of your cash transactions. By doing this, you’ll become familiar with the machine, its surroundings, and you’ll start to notice when (or if) there are any changes with the machine, especially if the owner of the machine hasn’t published any notices or information about there being any changes.

Shoulder Surfing and Skimming

Shoulder Surfing and SkimmingIt’s bound to happen at least once; the machine eats your ATM card. Your first reaction is to go into the bank to report it, or if it’s after business hours, you may leave the ATM machine and wait to report it later. Although this does and can happen, there are a couple of other things to notice if this scenario takes place:

  • Are there other people around you, waiting to use the machine, and offer to “help” you retrieve your ATM card?
  • The Good Samaritan who offers to “help” you encourages you to keep entering your PIN number to try and retrieve the card.
  • Your ATM withdrawal gets “stuck” in the tray, and the stranger offers to stay there and guard it while you go and get help.

An external device is used here to gain your ATM information. The thief may have placed a blocking device into the ATM card machine that traps your card and/or your money. The blocking device may be something as simple as glued film that captures and traps the ATM cards. When customers use the machine and enter their PIN’s, there may be thieves nearby watching and mentally recording their PIN number so they can access it later, after the customer has given up in frustration and walked away.

This type of scam is also known as shoulder surfing or skimming, and unfortunately is also very common. Never rely on the assistance of a complete stranger to help you retrieve your ATM card or to watch the cash tray for you. You should also never use or transact any information around an ATM machine where people are loitering and lingering around for no apparent reason. Busy areas will understandably have high foot traffic, but watch for ATM machine traffic where people are watching the machine, and watching the people who use the machine.

Money thieves and ATM theft will likely not go away any time soon, but individuals can and should do all that’s possible to decrease the possibility of fraud and scams. With a little attention to details and taking the steps to protect your financial privacy, you can do what’s necessary to avoid ATM scams and keep thieves from accessing your money.