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Cardless ATM makes cash withdrawals easier and safer

| Innovation and technology

Here’s another use for the smartphone as it invades daily life: in place of your debit card at your bank cash machine.

The "cardless" automatic teller machine (ATM) is gaining ground in the US and around the world, with smartphone technology allowing for speedier and more secure transactions.

Dozens of US banks are installing new ATMs or updating existing ones to allow customers to order cash on a mobile application and then scan a code to get their money without having to insert a bank card.

US banking giants Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase are in the process of deploying the new ATMs, as are a number of regional banks and financial groups around the world. Makers of ATMs and financial software groups are ramping up to meet this demand.

"We think our model (using smartphones) reduces a lot of vulnerabilities," says Doug Brown, who leads mobile technology for FIS Global, a major provider of ATM software and technology.

The FIS cardless system is being used at about 2,000 ATMs operated by at least 28 banks in the US "and we’re looking to rapidly expand that". The system should be operational at about 80,000 machines in North America over the coming 18 months, says Mr Brown.

Apart from speeding up transaction times, the smartphone-based system aims to curb the growing problem of "skimming" in which criminals steal the data on a card, often by inserting devices into the ATM card slot.

By some estimates, skimming cost the global banking industry about $2bn last year and can lead to other kinds of fraud when card data is stolen.

"Consumers are aware of this, they really understand and welcome this," says Mr Brown.

Another security benefit, Mr Brown says, is that authenticating on the handset reduces the time spent by a customer at the ATM to around 10 seconds instead of the typical 30 to 40 seconds.

"The performance is kind of shocking to some people, they almost jump back at the instantaneous response," Mr Brown says. "But it provides more physical security because they can make the transaction faster."

Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Riess says the group is "currently developing a new cardless ATM solution" based on NFC, or near field communication technology, to allow customers to authenticate without the use of a card. "We’ll roll out this capability in late February to associates in select ATMs in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Charlotte, New York and Boston," Ms Riess says. "It will be followed by a broader customer launch midyear."

Chase says it is planning a similar rollout sometime 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," says Chase spokesman Michael Fusco. "Later on, they will be able to use their digital mobile wallet to complete the transaction at the ATM."


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