Major U.S. banks aim at killing ATM cards


Apple Pay
Your iPhone may be holding even more cards in its Wallet this year.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

One day, your iPhone or Apple Watch could actually start dispensing money.

It’ll be your own money coming out of an ATM, but it’s still cool.

Officials at Bank of America and Wells Fargo have dropped hints that they have their eyes on incorporating Apple Pay into near-field-communication-equipped teller machines. Neither company is prepared to say when or how widely this will happen, but considering they’re two of the largest banks in the United States, this could be a big deal.

“We’ve been working on the technology that allows us to hook to digital wallets, leveraging NFC on mobile phones to replace the card at the transaction at the ATM,” Wells Fargo’s head of ATMs Jonathan Velline told TechCrunch. “Right now the wallet that we support is Android Pay. But we’re also looking at lots of different mobile wallets and evaluating which ones are going to be appropriate for our customers. We’ll likely add more mobile wallets throughout the year.”

Interviewer Josh Constine asked if that meant Apple Pay specifically.

“I think that’s a good assessment,” Velline said.

We only just found out that “head of ATMs” was a job, so this is all very exciting to us. Meanwhile, Bank of America’s word on the matter was less enticing.

“[Bank of America is] currently developing a new cardless ATM solution,” BoA consumer banking products press representative Betty Riess said. “This solution will enable customers to leverage NFC technology on their smart phone in order to authenticate and complete transactions at a Bank of America ATM.”

Wells Fargo and Bank of America own a combined 29,000 ATMs, so we imagine their business overlaps with Apple’s a bit.

Apple Pay lets owners of current iOS devices and the Apple Watch wearable securely store credit, loyalty program cards, and other wallet-filling bits of plastic virtually. You can use your stored info to make purchases both in-store and inside of apps, and because transactions use unique tokens instead of the actual credit-card numbers, it’s considerably more secure than using physical cards.

The system has support from hundreds of banks worldwide and is accepted at over a million retail locations.

This is just one more step toward a completely card-free lifestyle, and we welcome it. In addition to the convenience and security at the consumer level, NFC transactions are a pretty good idea for banks. They cut down on fraud because tiny, data-stealing devices won’t work if they don’t have a card to rip off. And that saves companies money and work.

It’s a win all around, unless you’re an identity thief, but nobody’s super concerned with addressing their needs to rip people off.

  • bIg hIlL

    What will happen to those of us who do not use smartphones or smart watches? What if there are people unwilling to pay large amounts of money for some so-called device just because the bank stops using card tech? If phones were free it may be an option, but they’d have to be pretty small, light and more damage resistant to the present offerings.

    • igorsky

      The same thing will happen to those people as will happen to the weakest members of a heard…they will be eaten first because they are unable to adapt.

      Not trying to be insensitive to your concerns. But sorry, that’s life.

      • bIg hIlL

        That’s an idea, but it won’t happen in my opinion. Banks cannot force clients to spend vast amounts on devices just to use their services. They will have to provide the means.