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The Origins of the ATM

The Origins of the ATM

How Did the ATM Evolve?

The automatic teller machine is such a common sight nowadays that most people probably take it completely for granted. It might be hard to imagine, then, that there was a time when the only way to withdraw cash from a bank account was to actually go to a bank and speak to a human being.

The ATM was an invention with a long gestation period. The first ATM patent, issued in 1939, was for a version of an ATM that never caught on. A 34-year-old Turkish inventor, photography expert and resident of New York City named Luther Simjian built what he called the “Bankmatic machine” and nicknamed the “hole-in-the-wall machine.” This device was capable of handling a few rudimentary banking transactions. The City Bank of New York, which is now called Citicorp, allowed Simjian to install his invention in one of their branches as an experiment. Very few customers were interested in going near the Bankmatic, however. Simjian observed that only gamblers and prostitutes seemed to want to use the machine. City Bank got rid of the machine six months after it was installed. Simjian went on to develop a number of inventions in a wide variety of fields; he died in 1997.

The late 1960’s were the boom time for ATM inventors. Consider the following developments, all within the span of a few years:

  • In 1965, a British engineer at Smiths Industries began working on a machine with a keypad that could read numbers encrypted on cards. This machine could also dispense pieces of paper, including cash.
  • In 1966, Scottish inventor James Goodfellow patented an ATM that functioned much as ATM’s today function.
  • John Shepherd-Barron, who ran a technology company called De La Rue Instruments, became the primary inventor of an ATM introduced in 1967. This ATM was called the DACS, short for “De La Rue Automatic Cash System.”
  • Reg Varney, a comedic television actor, became the first British citizen to use a DACS machine on June 27, 1967.

Of the inventors listed above, Shepherd-Barron is most widely credited with launching the ATM into public consciousness. But how did Shepherd-Barron come up with this idea?

Professionally, Shepherd-Barron was involved in the printing and transporting of cash; the idea of moving cash from one place to another inside an armored vehicle was one he helped to initiate and promote. Anyway, the story goes that one night in the mid-1960’s, Shepherd-Barron wanted to get some money after work, but the banks were closed. He went home and into his bathtub, still feeling angry because he hadn’t been able to withdraw money. Then the idea hit him: What if there were machines people could access any time of the day or night, machines that would dispense cash and automatically subtract the amount of withdrawal from a customer’s account? Shepherd-Barron went to work right away on the details of just such a machine with a team at De La Rue.

Plenty of issues had to be worked out. For example, there was no such thing as an ATM card in the 1960’s, so early versions of the automatic teller machine would have to read something else in order to identify a customer. The DACS machine read checks stained with carbon 14; the carbon 14 stains identified customers with numbers. (The presence of carbon 14 also made checks radioactive, if only to a tiny degree.) Therefore, Shepherd-Barron is not only an ATM innovator, but also the father of the PIN number as it’s now used in banking. He thought PIN’s should contain six digits, but his wife argued that four-digit PIN’s would work better.

Once the DACS prototype had been created, Shepherd-Barron met with a manager at Barclays, and this manager loved the idea of the automatic teller machine. By the way, Shepherd-Barron never earned anywhere near the money he might have from his work on the ATM, because he never patented the machine. He was concerned that if he patented it, he would have to publicly release all of its technological secrets. Thus, he reasoned, criminals would be able to break into these machines and steal money, rendering them useless.

The DACS machine may have delighted British banking customers, but it had yet to make its grand debut in the banking capital of the world: the United States. How the machine hit the big time in the U.S. is a story of its own, one we will share in the next post.

Where Should I Place My ATM?

Where Should I Place My ATM?

Where Should I Place My ATM

To really maximize the profits you earn from your business’s automatic teller machine, you need to place that machine in the right location. ATM placement is an art, not a science, however, even experts on the topic can sometimes disagree about ATM placement strategies. So consider the following an introduction to the factors that go into this important decision.

First and foremost, your customers won’t want to use your ATM unless they feel safe doing so. Therefore, install your ATM someplace in your business that’s lit brightly, somewhere under the watchful eye of a security camera, perhaps with a visible alarm system within arm’s reach.

You also have to decide whether to install your ATM indoors or outdoors. Outdoor ATM’s can be accessed twenty-four hours a day, of course, but they’re more vulnerable to vandals and thieves. You’ll have to invest in a first-rate (in other words, expensive) security system. There might even be specific safety/security laws in your state and municipality dictating the kinds of security measures you’re required to have in place for an outdoor ATM. In addition, during the day many customers prefer using indoor rather than outdoor ATM’s, as they feel safer doing so. In that regard, you might actually lose some ATM business if you place your automatic teller machine outside.

If you manage a large complex, such as a shopping mall or a resort hotel, then choosing the spot in which to install your ATM becomes significantly more challenging. Many such facilities set up an ATM in the lobby, believing that customers expect to find ATM’s there, and also believing that a lobby is a safe place because it receives so much traffic all day long. And many hotels, malls and even hospitals decide to maintain more than one on-site ATM. For instance, a hotel might find it worth the investment to put an ATM on every floor. If you decide to go this route, it probably makes sense to put the ATM at the same location on each floor – just to the left of the elevator, for instance.

You don’t have to run a business with multiple floors in order to derive benefit from multiple ATM’s, though. Even if you own, for example, a fairly large, one-story convenience store, you might find that if you purchase more than one ATM, and place those ATM’s in opposite sections of your store, those ATM’s will increase your profit margins each month.

One of the longest-running debates when it comes to the placement of ATM’s is this: Should you put an ATM right next to the front door of your establishment? There are passionate advocates on both sides of this argument. Those who say that an ATM should go beside the front door can site statistics indicating that putting an ATM here greatly increases the usage that ATM will get over time. Some studies have even said that an ATM beside the front door gets twice as many transactions as an ATM placed in, say, one of the far corners of a business’s interior.

On the other hand, the case against putting an ATM by the front door is also convincing. First, if you attract lots of customers each day, an ATM next to the door could cause congestion around that door. People lining up here might even block the entrance. And if potential customers walking by on the street see this commotion, they might be discouraged from entering your establishment, thus costing you business. Even worse, a line of customers near your front door might constitute a minor fire hazard, should that line be thick enough. And if your front door is glass, it might be tempting for drug addicts and other amateur robbers to break the glass at night, step inside and try to loot your ATM.

If you have no idea how many ATM’s to buy, or where to place them, you can always contact experts at an ATM consulting service. They’ll be able to analyze your floor plan and your flow of traffic and tell you the best place to put your machine(s).

Mobile ATMs

 Conveniences of a Mobile ATM

Conveniences of a Mobile ATM

A mobile automatic teller machine is an ATM on wheels, one you can rent for a special event such as a county fair, music festival or circus. You could even set up a mobile ATM at a more solemn occasion, such as a graduation or a civic ceremony honoring military veterans. Really, any event at which merchandise is sold or donations are collected – that is, any occasion at which attendees might suddenly realize they need extra cash – is an event that can benefit from the presence of a mobile ATM.

Mobile ATMs usually use wireless technology –not telephone lines – to send and receive information about customer accounts, so they know how much cash they can dispense to various individuals. Sometimes these ATMs do require a power source, however, so make sure you have an extra electrical cord handy, one that will be long enough.

Increasing Your Business

In fact, so many mobile ATMs have been appearing at large and small events in recent years that many attendees come to rely on them. Some people are loath to carry more cash than is absolutely necessary. In many cases, these people figure that if they see souvenirs or other items at an event that appeals to them, or to their children, they can simply head to a mobile ATM and get the funds to buy those products. Therefore, if you do not have a mobile ATM at your event, you will lose out on all of that business. In addition, customers with easy access to cash tend to stay at events longer, and in the process, of course, spend more money. Furthermore, if your event relies on third-party vendors, you want to make sure those vendors make as much money as they possibly can, lest they decide not to return to the event the following year. On top of all that, it can be easier and faster for customers to pay with cash at outdoor events than with personal checks or credit cards. And when cash is used, event organizers do not have to worry about checks that bounce, and you and your vendors are not responsible for credit card processing fees. (In fact, many event vendors refuse to accept any credit cards.)

Safety and Weather Concerns

Mobile ATMs are designed with customer safety as a top priority. They come with bright overhead lights to ward off criminals who would lurk in the shadows, and sometimes they include visible security cameras as well. As the planner of an event, you can further increase your mobile ATM customers’ feelings of security by putting the machine right in the middle of the action – in an area that you know will be heavily-trafficked, as this placement will certainly discourage would-be thieves as well.

One especially helpful feature about mobile ATMs is that event planners don’t have to worry about the weather when they order them. Mobile ATMs, just like the stationary ATMs you find out on the streets, are built rugged, more than able to withstand all kinds of weather conditions, including driving rain and heavy snow. They are water-resistant, too, and usually they include advanced temperature control systems to heat them up or cool them off as conditions require. If the weather is going to be horrendous, however, you could always elect to set up a mobile ATM indoors.

Choosing a Rental Company

When you’re looking for a mobile ATM rental company to patronize, look for a company offering the following:

  • strong encryption measures to safeguard passwords and user data – triple encryption is recommended
  • excellent references
  • at least several years of experience
  • signs that will guide customers to the mobile ATM

ATM Cash Replenishment Tips

The process of loading your automatic teller machine with new bills is called ‘ATM cash replenishment’ (and not, for whatever reason, ‘ATM cash replacement’). It’s important to replenish your ATM’s cash as soon as it starts running low. If people find that your ATM does not provide them with sufficient funds, your business’s reputation may falter. You might even start losing customers.

What is the process for ATM cash replenishment?

ATM Cash Replenishment Tips

Once you’ve been operating one or more ATM’s for a while, the cash replenishment process will become routine. But there are important procedures you should always follow whenever you’re replenishing your ATM’s supply of money. They will protect your money, your ATM and most important, your safety and your employees’ safety.

  • First, try to vary the times at which you replenish your ATM cash. For instance, you could replenish early Tuesday morning one time, late Friday afternoon the next time, midday Monday the next, and so on. Don’t stick to a pattern of replenishment times, either. Instead, replenish on a completely random basis to the greatest extent possible. Not to induce paranoia, but thieves could be staking out your ATM at this very moment. They could be trying to discern when it is you do your replenishing.
  • Remember that you should replenish your ATM’s one at a time. You should replenish your cassettes one at a time as well. There should be no customers inside your place of business during a cash replenishment procedure. Shut your doors and shut your blinds to shield this process from the view of people passing on the street. Have on hand an alarm system, too. One you could strike at a second’s notice to automatically contact 911 in the event of a robbery attempt.
  • Before the new stacks of cash enter your automatic teller machine, take the time to flip through them. Look at each bill to make sure everything seems OK. That is, check that none of the bills is counterfeit or torn and that none contain markings indicating they might have been stolen. Also, make certain that each of the bills is the denomination that it’s supposed to be. If you find any problem bills, contact your bank’s manager at once, and don’t let them go inside your ATM.
  • If you have a safe full of cash on your premises which you use during cash replenishments, change the combination of that safe after each replenishment. Don’t use a master key with this safe, either. You’ll greatly increase your risk of theft if you were to ever misplace your key.
  • You should take enough time during an ATM cash replenishment to ensure you don’t make any mistakes, but at the same time, you should work as quickly as you can so that the process takes no longer than it has to. Also, never place any container holding cash on the floor, and certainly never take your eyes off of such a container, even for a split-second!

Secure services are available to take care of ATM cash replenishment

There are plenty of companies you can hire to take care of your ATM cash replenishment needs for you. A good service will order all the cash you need, and bring that cash to your place of business in an armored vehicle. They’ll also carry the cash from that armored vehicle to your ATM in a secure container. Further, that company may deploy an entire team to take care of these duties, including:

  •       the armored car driver
  •       at least one armed guard
  •       at least one experienced technician to actually replace the money

All these employees should present identification to you before you admit them into your business. In some cases, the ATM company will give you a list of employees along with samples of their signatures, so you may compare a signature on an ID card to a signature on your list.

Some of these companies are available to replenish ATM cash seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And in many cases, such companies offer ATM maintenance services in addition to cash replenishment – freeing ATM cards when they get jammed, for example – as part of a package. Hiring one of these companies to take care of your ATM cash replenishment needs will not only save you and/or your employees time, but it may eliminate a source of anxiety as well.

Outrageous ATM Glitches

Can ATM glitches affect you?

Outrageous ATM Glitches

You can breathe a sigh of relief to know that the chance of something going wrong when you use an automatic teller machine is very small. But even though ATM glitches rarely happen, when they do occur they can be significant. In fact, some recent ATM issues might leave you shaking your head, and might leave bank managers trembling in fear.

Types of Outrageous ATM Glitches

When banks adopt new technologies, ATM problems sometimes result. For instance:

  • June 19, 2012, a computer glitch caused by a change in company software prevented the Royal Bank of Scotland from making any payments to its customers, including payments through ATM’s. Even though the offending glitch was fixed almost right away, it spurred a chain reaction of events that led to inoperable ATM’s, among many other banking issues. These problems lasted for days and affected millions of people.
  • Bank of America, which operates the U.S.’s largest network of automatic teller machines, also had a recent brush with ATM glitches caused by new technology. In the mid-2000’s, Bank of America began introducing ATM’s with scanning systems; these machines scan checks and deposit them into accounts. However, a number of these new devices refused to recognize certain checks, or did not follow through with the process of actually depositing the value of a check into a customer’s account. In a few isolated incidents, the machines completely shredded customers’ debit cards. No long-term damage was done, however; Bank of America took care of everyone who registered a complaint about these machines. And the vast majority of Bank of America’s new ATM’s worked without a hitch. Still, these incidents serve as reminders that bank customers always need to examine their bank statements to make sure they have the correct amount of money in their various accounts.

Natural disasters and mass panic can also bring about ATM glitches. In the aftermath of the terrible Japanese tsunami of 2011, thousands of ATM’s were out of order for hours. For at least one bank, Mizuho, the malfunctioning ATM’s were caused by an enormous uptick of customers trying to withdraw money from these machines.

On the other hand, sometimes ATM’s please customers too much. In 2009, Ronald Page, a retired autoworker in Detroit, found that a broken ATM in his home city was allowing him to take out all the money he wanted. So he took out $1.5 million, and he brought that cash to several casinos. He lost the entire amount. Later, prosecutors charged him with theft, and sought to have him jailed for 15 months. The lesson here: unlike in the board game Monopoly, when it comes to ATM’s in real life, there’s no such thing as an “error in your favor.” Therefore, if an ATM gives you more money than you know you have in your account, or if you go up to an ATM and find someone else’s money lying around, report the issue to a bank manager with the extra cash in hand. It’s not worth going jail over a mistake that wasn’t even yours to begin with.

Perhaps the most common “glitch” that occurs at ATM’s isn’t really a glitch at all. It’s called the “cash retract.” If you order a certain amount of cash from an ATM, but you don’t take that cash out right away, then that money will shoot back inside the ATM after 30 seconds. Imagine this scenario: you order $50 in cash from an ATM inside a bank. But just as the money is coming out, your young child runs away from you, and you have to chase her throughout the bank to retrieve her. You return more than 35 seconds later only to find your $50 is not there – it’s returned to the cash dispenser inside the machine. Yet it’s likely you’ll still have that $50 deducted from your account. What you should do in such a situation is let a bank employee know about it right away, so you can be sure that you’ll be reimbursed.

In fact, that really is an important message to repeat and to end on: whenever you are the victim of any kind of ATM glitch, notify your bank immediately, as doing so offers you the best chance of getting fully and promptly compensated.