The ATM Turns 50 Today

By Paul Riegler on 27 June 2017
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The ubiquitous automated teller machine, a device used by travelers in far-off lands to obtain local currency as well as to conduct banking transactions at home, turned 50 on Tuesday.

Sometimes referred to as an ATM, cashpoint, bankomat, or just a cash machine, the first such machine went into service on June 27, 1967 at a Barclays Bank branch in London, beating the competition – a Swedish machine known as a Bankomat – by a mere nine days. Invented before credit or debit cards with magnetic stripes or even data networks that could be used to check balances before dispensing cash, the machines used specially-designed £10 (roughly $213 today) vouchers that had to be obtained from tellers during normal banking hours, so planning ahead was necessary. Each voucher had a unique six-digit code that had to be entered when obtaining cash.

The first ATM in the United States was installed by Chemical Bank (now part of JP Morgan Chase) on September 2, 1969 at its Rockville Centre, New York branch. It was designed to deliver a fixed amount of cash when a customer inserted a specially coded card.

By the late 1980s, ATMs could be found in most countries, but interoperability was a big issue. Travelers couldn’t necessarily go to the nearest one but had to find an ATM that used a compatible bank network. Increased functionality, such as support for money transfers, detailed account statements, and bill payments, soon followed.

Today, ATMs are found not only in banks but also in supermarkets, malls, airports, train stations, gas stations, restaurants, and bars – in other words, anywhere frequented by large numbers of people who might need cash. In addition, almost all ATMs are connected digitally to interbank networks that permit customers of other banks to deposit and withdraw funds using machines belonging to banks other than where they maintain their accounts.

The ATM Industry Association, a trade group, estimates that there are three million ATMS deployed worldwide. While most ATM transactions require a credit or debit card, select Bank of America ATMs allow customers to use Apple Pay and Android Pay instead. Wells Fargo has said it plans to introduce similar functionality by the end of 2017.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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