Banks race to add 24/7 banking via high-tech ATMs

The ATM race is on.

The availability of a new generation of ATMs with extra bells and whistles has triggered mass upgrades by some banks.

The initial ATMs launched more than 40 years ago were limited to a single function: dispensing cash. But today's "enhanced" or "smart" ATMs can do much more, and some banks that have them are featuring them prominently in their advertising campaigns.

Transferring funds between accounts. Issuing receipts featuring an image of the check you just deposited. Speeding up transactions by making it easy to create preferences, such as whether you want a printed receipt, or how much you want to withdraw when you opt for "fast cash." Accepting deposits of up to 50 checks at once.

Features differ from bank to bank, but these are some of the functions available in the latest generation of ATMs. And there's even a new wrinkle in cash dispensing — issuing $1 and $5 bills.


Among the changes:

• Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank has upgraded half of its 7,200 ATMs since last year. "We want to be responsive and provide the technology that customers want," said Mariko Suzuki, retail market manager for North Carolina and South Carolina.

• Wells Fargo, with headquarters in San Francisco, revamped the user interface on all of its 12,000 ATMs to make them faster, easier to use and more personalized.

"We really want to deliver to our customers a differentiated service," said Alicia Moore, who heads ATM banking for Wells Fargo. "ATMs process more transactions than our tellers."

• Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank replaced all of its 2,240 ATMs with new machines in the past two years. SunTrust is evaluating whether it wants to add another feature to its ATMs — enabling customers to access ATMs through their smartphones instead of using debit cards. "The benefit of having state-of-the-art machines is we can do that," said Tom McDermott, senior vice president.

• First Citizens Bank, with headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., replaced 150 of its 484 ATMs with enhanced models earlier this year. "We'll be changing out another 30 machines in the first quarter of next year," spokeswoman Barbara Thompson said.

Meanwhile, Bank of America is advancing into new territory by installing ATMs that enable customers to interact with a video image of a teller at another location. Bank of America installed the first of these video ATMs, also known as video tellers, in Boston and Atlanta in the second Nessa Feddis, senior vice president at the ABA, chalks up the banks' ATM investments to the emergence of innovative technology, combined with the industry's quest to make banking more convenient for customers.

Increasing the banking tasks that ATMs can handle is "a way of extending banking hours, and that goes to customer convenience," she said.


Or, as PNC's Suzuki puts it, "Having these ATMs gives our customers the sense they can truly bank 24/7."

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