Benefits & Risks of Using ATM Machines

The automatic teller machine, or ATM, is a modern convenience that seems to be on every street corner, in every retail store and attached to every bank building. Companies even sell full-sized or miniature ATMs for home use. The convenience of the ATM can become a problem if you aren’t aware of the pros and cons of using a public machine to conduct your banking business.

History of Automatic Teller Machines

The ATM, like a human bank teller, helps you perform your banking business. The first ATM in 1969 was limited to dispensing cash. By 1980, the ATM had begun to handle a range of transactions, including deposits and balance inquiries. With more than 3 million ATMs worldwide, your choices include exterior walk-up and drive-up ATMs, interior ATMs inside of banks and businesses, and ATMs inside closed vestibules you access with your ATM card.

Benefits of ATMs

Convenience is a major ATM benefit. You don’t need to get out of the car to use a drive-up ATM. You avoid long teller lines in banks and can use the ATM to withdraw cash, make deposits and check account balances. You can find an ATM quickly if you need cash when cards and checks won’t do. Use of the ATM to get cash instead of swiping the debit card can help with budgeting by controlling spending and providing a statement of transactions instead of a bunch of receipts.

Traveling abroad? Enjoy favorable exchange rates when ATMs dispense foreign currency and your bank debits your account in U.S. dollars.

Risks of ATMs

Personal safety is a risk with ATMs in empty parking lots, poorly lighted places or behind bank buildings. In these places, there's always the risk someone will be lurking nearby to rob you of your money when you are finished.

There is also the risk that more clever thieves will swipe your PIN code. This risk increases with poorly maintained or unfamiliar ATMs. Consumer protection agencies warn that criminals attach mirrors to ATMs to capture PIN numbers or tamper with the machines in other ways to get your cash or information.

You will also be charged fees for using ATMs not connected to your bank or those in foreign countries.

Things to Consider

Use undamaged ATMs in open, well-lit places. Use caution when withdrawing cash in public places or returning to your car, and make sure to complete or cancel your transactions. Lock your car while using walk-up ATMs and wait until you are in your car or a safe place to count your cash. Use of ATMs while traveling abroad requires more caution to avoid scams.

Save on fees by using your bank’s ATMs. Credit unions often allow free use of their machines regardless of which bank you use.

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