Forget your PIN, smartphone-operated ATMs are coming

© Kevin Lamarque
It was clear a while back that smartphones would be replacing other gadgets’ functions at a rapid pace – and next up is your debit card. Cardless ATMs are replacing the standard versions around the US. They are said to provide speedier and more secure transactions.

Plenty of banks, like the Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo, to name a few, are making the switch or updating existing ATMs. According to one of the prime ATM software and technology developers, about 2,000 automatic tellers in 28 banks across the US are “looking to rapidly expand that.”

"We think our model (using smartphones) reduces a lot of vulnerabilities," Doug Brown, head of mobile technology at FIS Global, told AFP.

In a mere 18 months, this countrywide update promises to reach an impressive 80,000 machines. According to Brown, Europe and the rest are next.

He talks of many advantages associated with such a system, starting, of course, with security. For starters, it will eliminate the dangers of a rather crude type of theft – skimming, where criminals insert special tech into ATM slots to read the information off of a victim’s card. This type of theft alone cost the government $2 billion in 2015.

And according to Brown, the new smartphone-operated withdrawals have been getting a very warm reception from consumers.

Brown adds that authentication will also be much quicker. US machines take around 30-40 seconds to identify the customer. This is reduced to 10 with smartphones. This also provides extra security because you’re in and out of the system faster.

"What we are saying with this is forget the card reader, forget the PIN pad, we all have these devices in our pockets," ATM manufacturer Diebold’s business development manager Dave Kuchenski said.

"If we're using a mobile phone, we no longer have the need for a card, we no longer have a need for a receipt printer, we've dematerialized a lot of the devices. Banks like this, because it has fewer moving parts, so it reduces the total cost of ownership."

Near-field technology (or NFC) on smartphones is really nothing new, it’s been used in recent years for a variety of tasks performed by your device. The Bank of America told AFP that it’s currently in wait for its cardless ATMs that use the technology.

"We'll roll out this capability in late February to associates in select ATMs in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Charlotte, New York and Boston,” spokeswoman Betty Riess said, promising a customer-tailored version later this year.

"When we first roll this out, customers will be able to request an access code through the Chase mobile app and enter it at the ATM to do their transactions," Chase spokesman Michael Fusco explained. He added that later the whole process will be automated from the mobile phone’s electronic wallet.

There are two ways the upcoming upgrade can go – some machines require only a software update, while others need to be completely replaced or refitted.