What The Removal Of ATM Fees Really Means

The CBA led move last weekend to abolish foreign ATM fees, which was quickly followed by the other majors and Suncorp is a benefit to those using other banks ATMs to withdraw cash, and will be especially welcome in regional and rural areas, where travel times to own branch machines tends to be extended.

We showed that the volume of cash withdrawals is decreasing.

ATMs are now a legacy banking artifact, to be managed not for strategic advantage (replacing more expensive branches) but to reduce costs, as it is being replaced by electronic payments, pay waive and mobile devices.

The timing, I suggest, rather than being a deliberate attempt to distract from the BEAR proposals which were released by the Government a couple of days before; is more an outworking of recent discussions, centered on driving more cost savings from the ATM system.  The fact is ATMs are expensive animals to service, not so much from the technology point of view, but because the cash cartridges need to be physically replenished, which requires a small army of security guards, vans, and a supply of fresh notes. Remote ATMs are especially costly to service. Many are outsourced.

We examined the Point of Presence Data from APRA which includes counts of ATMs, listed by bank, and other provider.  This annual report is helpful when exploring distribution strategy, though the format will be changed this coming edition. We have data to 2016.

It shows that between 2014 and 2016 there was a 3.5% fall in the number of ATMs operating, with a total count of 14,293. We lost net, net around 500 machines in 2 years.

We then looked at the major banks, and Suncorp. Suncorp was responsible for a net 152 reduction, followed by Westpac 88 and ANZ 43. NAB grew their fleet by 45 and CBA by 7.

The state by state data shows that Queensland lost the most machines, down 165, then NSW 118, WA 98 and SA 76.  By bank, CBA, NAB and ANZ grew their footprint in NSW, while WBC and Suncorp cut machines significantly there.

Now, the point of all of this is that given falling transaction volumes, we expect the number of ATMs to continue to fall.  The removal of “foreign” ATMS fees allows consumers to use any ATM within reach. As a result, banks can with some justification say that therefore multiple ATMs in a location are no longer required. As a result I expect a rush of closures, with the aim of not being the “last man standing” effectively holding the community service obligation in a given area.

So, in my view the ATM fee story is more about managing down legacy systems and costs than providing customer benefit.  Think of it as a utility service.  The Banks should consider formalising this in my view!

You could argue, provided you can still get cash, you may not care, but of course if there is a single machine in town, it is also a point of single failure, especially over a long weekend!

As always, there is more behind the PR than first appears….

 

 

 

 

 

Suncorp removes ATM fees

Suncorp will remove fees for all non-Suncorp customers so that no  customer pays an ATM fee anywhere in Australia.

Suncorp Executive General Manager Deposits & Investments, Bruce Rush says the change will deliver greater value to all banking customers while increasing the availability of fee-free ATMs across the country.

“Suncorp supports fee-free ATMs and we will implement this change in early December to coincide with other positive changes, including updating technology and enhancing customer experience which is already planned for our ATM network,” Mr Rush said.

“It is great to see all Australians benefit and we are especially pleased for Suncorp customers who live in locations where there are limited options to withdraw cash.”

… As Does Westpac

All the major banks have removed foreign ATM fees. The ABA welcomed the move.

Statement from Anna Bligh, Australian Bankers’ Association Chief Executive:

“The ABA welcomes the announcement from the major banks today to abolish ATM fees.

“It’s a boon for customers and makes banking more affordable for everyday Australians.

“This is the latest in a suite of initiatives by banks to create better products and services for customers and boost customer choice, including reducing interest rates on credit cards and offering fee-free transaction accounts.

“A competitive banking system is good for customers and good for the sector.”

NAB Joins the ATM Fee Cuts

NAB has today announced it will remove ATM withdrawal fees for everyone using any of its NAB ATMs around the country.

Already, NAB customers using NAB ATMs incur no cash withdrawal fee.

“We’re pleased to now extend this so that all Australians, regardless of whether they bank with NAB or not, can use any of our ATMs and not be charged a cash withdrawal fee,” NAB Chief Customer Officer of Consumer Banking and Wealth, Andrew Hagger, said.

“This is a good outcome for customers. We know it has been frustrating for them to be charged to withdraw their own money from an ATM, and the change we are announcing today will benefit millions of Australians.

“At NAB, we’re proud of our track record of making banking fairer over many years, and we will always look at how we can improve the experience and services we provide customers.”

Since 2009, NAB has led the industry by removing many of the fees and charges that annoy customers the most, and NAB remains the only major bank to have a transaction account with no monthly account service fee, saving customers around $5 every month.

“NAB’s commitment is to back our customers by continuing to listen to them, and respond to their concerns and needs so we can be a better bank,” Mr Hagger said.

ANZ Also Will Abolish ATM Fees

ANZ today announced it would remove fees for all non-ANZ customers using its fleet of automatic teller machines anywhere in Australia. The change will impact non-ANZ customers who are currently charged a $2 fee when they use an ANZ ATM.

ANZ customers are not currently charged when they use one of ANZ’s more than 2,300 machines. ANZ Group Executive Fred Ohlsson said: “While we had been actively working on how we provide fee free ATMs for our customers, we have decided to remove these fees all together from October.

“We know ATM fees are one of the most unpopular and while our customers have benefitted from our network of ATMs across the country, this is another example of acting on customer feedback as well as genuine reform from the industry,” Mr Ohlsson said.

The change will be implemented in early October 2017.

CBA Axes “Foreign” ATM Charges

The CBA today (yes on a Sunday!) has announced they are killing the ATM charge incurred by non-CBA customers withdrawing cash from their ATMs.

In a first for an Australian bank, Commonwealth Bank has removed ATM withdrawal fees so all CommBank and non-CommBank customers won’t be charged an ATM withdrawal fee by us when they take cash out at any of our 3,400 ATMs.

RBA data shows that Australians made more than 250 million ATM withdrawals from banks other than their own last year so the move is designed to increase convenience and bring savings.

“Australians have complained for some time about being charged fees for using another bank’s ATM,” Matt Comyn, Group Executive, Retail Banking Services, said today.

“We have been listening to consumer groups and our customers and understand that there’s a need to make changes that benefit all Australians, no matter who they bank with. This is one of the steps we’re taking to make that happen,” Mr Comyn said.

“As Australia’s largest bank, with one of the largest branch and ATM networks, we think this change will benefit many Australians and hopefully demonstrate our willingness to listen and act on customer feedback.”

No ATM withdrawal fee access applies to CommBank-branded ATMs and excludes Bankwest ATMs and customers using overseas cards.

The number of withdrawals from ATMs (and the number of ATMs in use) are falling, as other non-cash payment mechanisms proliferate – such as pay wave, debit cards and mobile payments.  We expect the downward trajectory to accelerate as non-cash alternatives continue to grow. Customers can also get cash out at supermarkets, and this alternative has become popular for those who need to get their hands on real notes.

Under half have a charge attached, those are withdrawals from another bank’s ATMs.

As we said in a recent post there is a generation shift in play as digital natives continue to adopt smartphone based payment options, from Applepay, to NFC transactions in shops, or apps like paypal as well as the move to debt. Even digital migrants are using electronic mechanisms, such as smart phones, internet banking, contactless payments and Bpay is also a popular option.

Data from the RBA shows the volume of ATM cash withdrawal transactions has fallen by 15% over 3 years, whilst the gross value has slipped a little (and fallen in post-inflation adjusted terms). Debit card transactions are more than taking up the slack. But there is also more going on here.

We are approaching a tipping point where the economics of ATMs will not make sense, other than at a few high traffic locations, as there a fixed costs relating to installation and maintenance (including the cash top-up) and income is linked to volumes. There was a proliferation of third party ATMs in for example retail sites in the 1990’s, but these are getting less use too. So we think the number of machines will fall.

Meantime the ubiquitous smart phone is set to become your personal finance assistant, your electronic wallet and electronic credit card. Just do not lose your phone!

As a result, traditional channels such the the branch, ATM and even plastic are all under threat. Cash will become less important in every day life, but it will remain, used perhaps by people less comfortable with the technology, or in the black economy. It would not surprise me if down the track larger bank notes started to disappear under the guise of migration to digitally based more cost-efficient payment solutions, which just happen also to be easier to track.

Meantime, the ATM just got out-evolved by the smartphone.

Around $500 million was charged by banks to customers, and the average fee is $2 per transaction.  CBA has the largest fleet of ATMs across the country, with more than 3,400.

This is a move which was expected, given there are overseas precedents to removing ATM fees, and volumes are falling.  Of the 70,000 ATMs in the UK network, around 16,000 charge users a fee per withdrawal.

CBA will hope to gain a positive reaction, to counter the recent negative publicity surrounding its business.  It will be interesting to see if other banks will follow (some will require IT modifications, so it may take some time), we suspect they might, which would be a small win for consumers.

 

 

 

Suncorp announces new partnership with rediATM network

Suncorp has today announced it has entered a new partnership with Cuscal Limited, owners of the rediATM network, to significantly increase the number of direct-charge-free ATMs for its customers.

Suncorp CEO Customer Platforms, Gary Dransfield, said from 1 August, 2017, Cuscal Limited will become the exclusive provider of Suncorp’s ATMs.

“Suncorp customers will soon have fee-free access to more ATMs, in more locations than ever before, following the announcement of this new partnership,” Mr Dransfield said.

“The agreement will see the number of fee-free ATMs available to customers more than double to 3,300, up from the current 1,600.

“This partnership meets all of our requirements as a business, and is a great result for customers who will benefit from increased ATM access and functionality enhancements across the rediATM network.”

Commenting on the news, Cuscal MD Craig Kennedy said:

“We’re very pleased to welcome Suncorp to the rediATM network. It will make the network stronger and is great news for our 90 plus financial institution members, as well as their 11 million cardholders who have charge-free access to the rediATM network,” he said.

“We’ve been providing safe, convenient, reliable ATM services for more than 30 years and with our recent investment in refreshing our entire rediATM network, we’re looking forward to doing so for many years to come.”

The ATM at 50: how a hole in the wall changed the world

From The Conversation.

Next time you withdraw money from a hole in the wall, consider singing a rendition of happy birthday. For on June 27, the Automated Teller Machine (or ATM) celebrates its half century. Fifty years ago, the first cash machine was put to work at the Enfield branch of Barclays Bank in London. Two days later, a Swedish device known as the Bankomat was in operation in Uppsala. And a couple of weeks after that, another one built by Chubb and Smith Industries was inaugurated in London by Westminster Bank (today part of RBS Group).

These events fired the starting gun for today’s self-service banking culture – long before the widespread acceptance of debit and credit cards. The success of the cash machine enabled people to make impromptu purchases, spend more money on weekend and evening leisure, and demand banking services when and where they wanted them. The infrastructure, systems and knowledge they spawned also enabled bankers to offer their customers point of sale terminals, and telephone and internet banking.

There was substantial media attention when these “robot cashiers” were launched. Banks promised their customers that the cash machine would liberate them from the shackles of business hours and banking at a single branch. But customers had to learn how to use – and remember – a PIN, perform a self-service transaction and trust a machine with their money.

People take these things for granted today, but when cash machines first appeared many had never before been in contact with advanced electronics.

And the system was far from perfect. Despite widespread demand, only bank customers considered to have “better credit” were offered the service. The early machines were also clunky, heavy (and dangerous) to move, insecure, unreliable, and seldom conveniently located.

Indeed, unlike today’s machines, the first ATMs could do only one thing: dispense a fixed amount of cash when activated by a paper token or bespoke plastic card issued to customers at retail branches during business hours. Once used, tokens would be stored by the machine so that branch staff could retrieve them and debit the appropriate accounts. The plastic cards, meanwhile, would have to be sent back to the customer by post. Needless to say, it took banks and technology companies years to agree common standards and finally deliver on their promise of 24/7 access to cash.

The globalisation effect

Estimates by RBR London concur with my research, suggesting that by 1970, there were still fewer than 1,500 of the machines around the world, concentrated in Europe, North America and Japan. But there were 40,000 by 1980 and a million by 2000.

A number of factors made this ATM explosion possible. First, sharing locations created more transaction volume at individual ATMs. This gave incentives for small and medium-sized financial institutions to invest in this technology. At one point, for instance, there were some 200 shared ATM networks in the US and 80 shared networks in Japan.

They also became more popular once banks digitised their records, allowing the machines to perform a host of other tasks, such as bank transfers, balance requests and bill payments. Over the last five decades, a huge number of people have made the shift away from the cash economy and into the banking system. Consequently, ATMs became a key way of avoiding congestion at branches.

ATM design began to accommodate people with visual and mobility disabilities, too. And in recent decades, many countries have allowed non-bank companies, known as Independent ATM Deployers (IAD) to operate machines. The IAD were key to populating non-bank locations such as corner shops, petrol stations and casinos.

Indeed, while a large bank in the UK might own 4,000 devices and one in the US as many as 12,000, Cardtronics, the largest IAD, manages a fleet of 230,000 ATMs in 11 countries.

Bank to the future

The ATM has remained a relevant and convenient self-service channel for the last half century – and its history is one of invention and re-invention, evolution rather than revolution.

Self-service banking and ATMs continue to evolve. Instead of PIN authentication, some ATMS now use “tap and go” contactless payment technology using bank cards and mobile phones. Meanwhile, ATMs in Poland and Japan have used biometric recognition, which can identify a customer’s iris, fingerprint or voice, for some time, while banks in other countries are considering them.

So it’s a good time to consider what the history of cash dispensers can teach us. The ATM was not the result of a eureka moment of a single middle-aged man in a bath or garage, but from active collaboration between various groups of bankers and engineers to solve the significant challenges of a changing world. It took two decades for the ATM to mature and gain widespread, worldwide acceptance, but today there are 3.5m ATMs with another 500,000 expected by 2020.

Research I am currently undertaking suggests that ATMs may have reached saturation point in some Western countries. However, research by the ATM Industry Association suggests there is strong demand for them in China, India and the Middle East. In fact, while in the West people tend to use them for three self-service functions (cash withdrawal, balance enquiries, and purchasing mobile phone airtime), Chinese customers consumers regularly use them for as many as 100 different tasks.

Taken for granted?

Interestingly, people in most urban areas around the world tend to interact with the same five ATMs. But they shouldn’t be taken for granted. In many countries in Africa, Asia and South America, they offer services to millions of people otherwise excluded from the banking sector.

In most developed counties, meanwhile, the retail branch and the ATM are the only two channels over which financial institutions have 100% control. This is important when you need to verify the authenticity of your customer. Banks do not control the make and model of their customers’ smart phones, tablets or personal computers, which are vulnerable to hacking and fraud. While ATMs are targeted by thieves, mass cybernetic attacks on them have yet to materialise.

I am often asked whether the advent of a cashless, digital economy heralds the end of the ATM. My response is that while the world might do away with cash and call ATMs something else, the revolution of automated self-service banking that began 50 years ago is here to stay.

Author: Bernardo Batiz-Lazo, Professor of Business History and Bank Management, Bangor University

Cash is falling out of fashion – will it disappear forever?

From The Conversation.

On June 27, the ATM turns 50. Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker once described it as the “only useful innovation in banking.” But today, the cash that ATMs dispense may be on the endangered list.

Cash is being displaced in so many ways that it’s hard to keep track. There are credit cards and electronic payments; apps such as Venmo, PayPal and Square Cash; mobile payments services; cryptocurrencies that operate outside the purview of central banks; and localized offerings such as Kenya’s mPesa, India’s Paytm and Bangladesh’s bKash. These innovations are encouraging cashlessness across communities worldwide.

It’s reasonable to expect cash to follow the path of other goods that have been replaced by digital alternatives, such as photos, music and movies. Will cash – and the ATMs that dispense it – experience a “Blockbuster” moment and disappear from our neighborhoods?

Not so fast. Cash will likely become less popular, thanks to the high cost of using cash and the growing array of alternatives. But I expect it will remain with us forever. The future will be “less cash,” rather than cashless.

The cost of cash

As of 2013, approximately 85 percent of the world’s transactions involved cash.

Reliance on cash is quite uneven across the world. While Singapore, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Switzerland are among the least cash-reliant countries, in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Peru and Egypt, only 1 percent of transactions are cashless. Even some highly advanced countries, such as Japan, are still highly reliant on cash.

Cash usage in the U.S. is still high relative to EU countries. In 2015, cash usage in the U.S. represented 13.1 percent of its GDP, whereas it represented just 7.1 percent in France and 4.5 percent in Switzerland.

Concerns about social equity offer one motivation for lawmakers to push for cashless alternatives. My colleague Benjamin Mazzotta and I have studied the costs of cash across a wide range of countries, with a particular focus on the U.S., Mexico, Egypt and India. Our research shows that the poor and those with less access to institutions bear a disproportionate share of these costs of using cash.

In the U.S., for example, cash usage imposes a regressive tax on consumers, with the highest impact on people who do not have an account with a bank. We found that the unbanked pay four times more in fees to access their money than those with bank accounts. They also pay US$4 higher fees per month for cash access on average than those with formal financial services. Such fees include those charged for payday lending, buy-here-pay-here auto loans and check cashing. The unbanked have a five times higher risk of paying cash access fees on payroll and EBT cards.
Poorer consumers also have to spend far more time getting cash. On average, Americans spend 28 minutes a month traveling to get cash, but that time isn’t evenly distributed. People who don’t use a bank spend about five minutes longer getting to the place where they can get cash, and unemployed people spent nearly nine minutes more.

In the meantime, other scholars have argued for the benefits of a “less cash” society. Ken Rogoff at Harvard has argued that eliminating higher-denomination banknotes can prevent currency from being used to fund illegal activities.

A world without cash

A combination of public and private initiatives are currently chipping away at the global predominance of cash, with some countries moving more quickly than others.

Sweden, already high on the cashlessness scale, may become the first country to come close to a truly cashless state. Sweden’s history in banks promoting cash alternatives dates back to the 1960s, with digital bank transfers used to pay wages. Cards also become more popular in the 1990s, when banks also started charging a fee for checks. The app, Swish, developed by the major banks, is widely used today for digital money transfers by nearly half the population. Many businesses discourage use of cash, and retailers are legally allowed to refuse cash.

In several other countries, governments are experimenting with innovative digital alternatives. In 2012, the Royal Canadian Mint launched the MintChip project, recently handed over to the private sector. The plan is to store cash on computer chips, enabling the transfer of money between chips through encrypted messages.

In some countries, the private sector has led the way, creating “less cash” societies in the unlikeliest of places. Consider Somaliland, one of the poorest countries in the world. It stands at the forefront of a mobile payment revolution with its ZAAD platform. At over 30 mobile payment transactions a month on average, the average citizen of Somaliland is far ahead of the rest of the world’s average of 8.5 such transactions per capita per month.

Perhaps the most dramatic nudge toward “less cash” was experienced recently in India. Last November, the Indian government made a high-risk, high-stakes move by demonetizing the 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes, in effect voiding 86 percent of cash in circulation. Their initial aim was to root out corruption and illegal activity funded by cash. New 500 and 2,000 rupee banknotes were issued, so consumers had to go to a bank and exchange their demonetized currency.

In a country that is almost 90 percent reliant on cash, this move led to disrupted enterprises, unpaid wages and long lines at banks. Mobile wallet players were the unqualified winners of the decision, with market leader Paytm claiming a 435 percent increase in traffic and a 250 percent increase in overall transactions and transaction value.

However, despite the surge in mobile payments after demonetization, cash in India remains resilient. In March, five months after demonetization, cash withdrawals were actually 0.6 percent higher than a year earlier.

The future of cash

What explains the resilience of cash, despite its costs and a growing array of alternatives?

Cash is unique among payment instruments in that anyone can transact, any time, any place, with no third parties involved. With this freedom comes strong privacy protection. Currency neither knows nor cares who holds it or when and where a transaction occurred. People have a visceral sense of security when they have cash with them. Much of this sentiment was uncovered in our Cost of Cash studies spanning multiple countries.

These thresholds will, of course, evolve as our societies become more digitally native. However, old habits and perceptions take a long time to turn over. Some merchants will resist the costs of new equipment or fees that accompany cash alternatives. Cash is also considered more convenient and versatile, while with digital transactions there’s always concerns about hacking and fraud.

So, no matter where we are in the world, let us celebrate the ATM’s half-century of service. The human connection with cash will be hard to break. Though cash may become less popular, rest assured that there will always be someone who will stop you in the street asking for directions to the nearest ATM.

Author: Bhaskar Chakravorti , Senior Associate Dean, International Business & Finance, Tufts University

ATMs Out-evolved By Mobile Phones

There is an inevitable decline in the volume of transactions through Australian ATMs as alternative, mainly non-cash alternatives bloom.

Data from the RBA shows the volume of ATM cash withdrawal transactions has fallen by 15% over 3 years, whilst the gross value has slipped a little (and fallen in post-inflation adjusted terms). Debit card transactions are more than taking up the slack. But there is also more going on here.

We had the chance to discuss this on Perth radio and coverage in an article in the Herald-Sun.

There is a generation shift in play as digital natives continue to adopt smartphone based payment options, from Applepay, to NFC transactions in shops, or apps like paypal as well as the move to debt. Even digital migrants are using electronic mechanisms, such as smart phones,  internet banking, contactless payments and Bpay is also a popular option.

We are approaching a tipping point where the economics of ATMs will not make sense, other than at a few high traffic locations, as there a fixed costs relating to installation and maintenance (including the cash top-up) and income is linked to volumes. There was a proliferation of third party ATMs in for example retail sites in the 1990’s, but these are getting less use too. So we think the number of machines will fall.

Meantime the ubiquitous smart phone is set to become your personal finance assistant, your electronic wallet and electronic credit card. Just do not loose your phone!

As a result, traditional channels such the the branch, ATM and even plastic are all under threat. Cash will become less important in every day life, but it will remain, used perhaps by people less comfortable with the technology, or in the black economy. It would not surprise me if down the track larger bank notes started to disappear under the guise of migration to digitally based more cost-efficient payment solutions, which just happen also to be easier to track.

Meantime, the ATM just got out-evolved by the smartphone.