Forget Your ATM Card? No Biggie, As Long as You’ve Got Your Phone

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on June 13, 2012

Mobile ATM WithdrawalsAnother layer has been added to the relationship between personal finance and smartphones: Pretty soon, you’ll be able to withdraw cash from ATMs without ever inserting a card.

NCR, a Georgia-based ATM manufacturer, announced on June 11 that it has developed a new service that will allow consumers to make withdrawals via a cell phone application. But don’t worry, you won’t run the risk of “butt-dialing” your local ATM and having your hard-earned money spill out into the streets. The so-called NCR Mobile Cash Withdrawal service requires that you use your phone to log into your mobile banking account in order to authenticate your identity and then scan a barcode on the ATM’s screen to complete a transaction.

You might therefore be wondering what good such a service will do you. That’s a fair question because for many people, fuddling around with an app and their cell phone’s camera will take far more time than completing a standard ATM transaction, which might be muscle memory at this point.

Well, the benefit of NCR’s Mobile Cash Withdrawal is twofold. First of all, it won’t take nearly as long as you might think. You can begin the withdrawal process anywhere by choosing how much you want to take out. Once you reach the ATM, all that will be left to do is scan the barcode and collect your cash. Besides, it’s likely that only technologically adept people will try to make withdrawals in this manner.

The most important aspect of this technology is undoubtedly the role it can play in fraud prevention, though. Fraudsters ordinarily have a couple of different ways they can intercept bank account information from a consumer attempting to make an ATM withdrawal. They can take an old-school approach and simply watch you enter your PIN and then pickpocket you for the card that goes along with it. Or they can go new school and use an electronic device known as a skimmer. Such a device can be inserted into an ATM in order to record the number of any card inserted into it. NCR’s new service takes both the PIN and the need to insert your card into the terminal out of the equation. No account information will be stored on your phone either, so losing it wouldn’t make you vulnerable.

“Mobile Cash Withdrawal is a very secure approach to traditional card-based ATM transactions,” according to an NCR press release. “No consumer data is stored on the device or contained within the on-screen 2D barcode. Rather, scanning the barcode only identifies the location of the ATM and prompts fulfillment of the transaction. In turn, using a mobile device eliminates the threat of ATM skimming devices used by criminals.”

While this all sounds pretty good, you unfortunately won’t be able to put it to use for a little while. NCR is looking for launch partners and does not expect to roll its service out for initial implementation until later this year.

How successful they are in getting major banks to sign up will ultimately dictate the service’s success. Only time will tell how well NCR’s creation will fare, but there’s one thing we know right now: The adoption of smartphone-based mobile payments in the United States is building momentum. Nevertheless, as I see things, there’s one major hurdle to widespread adoption of all these new ways to use your phone to make purchases and now withdrawals that no one seems to be paying much attention to: What happens if you run out of battery? Having your phone die is frustrating enough when you’re just trying to make a call; imagine how maddening it would be if a dead battery prevents you from getting a cab or buying anything, for that matter.


Alex Moir
A good idea.
August 6 at 19:36 pm

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