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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Human Element Is Part of New ATMs

Roughly two years after it debuted on the East Coast, the latest wave of ATM technology has made it to San Diego. It allows big bank customers to do a lot more without seeing an in-person teller.

All of these machines, from Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase, can hand out singles and other denominations beyond the standard $20 bill. Some let users make credit card payments or access all of their accounts instead of just the one linked to the specific ATM card they used.

Bank of America’s machines, called ATM Teller Assist, let users video chat with a live teller at a remote call center, opening up its more advanced features including cashing checks or paying off a loan. If a customer forgets her ATM card, she can use a small, built-in scanner to show the remote teller a driver’s license to confirm her identity.

Bank of America installed three of the new ATMs at Point Loma, Carlsbad and Mira Mesa branches in June, and plans to put in four more in Mira Mesa and Encinitas by the end of year. The technology first debuted in Boston in 2013. There are about 700 of the machines in 26 metro areas across the country.

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The several hundred remote tellers are based in Jacksonville, Fla., Newark, Del., or Rio Rancho, N.M, and are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. They cannot, however, provide certified checks, give out rolls of coins or accept two-party endorsed checks.

Helping Not Hurting Branches

While the banking industry closed about 1,500 net branches over the past year, Bank of America said the immediate goal is not to abandon branch locations en masse in favor of the new ATMs.

“This lets us keep branches open for longer periods of time,” said Christopher Allen, Bank of America’s regional sales executive for San Diego County. “We’re less likely to close a branch.”

Allen noted, however, that the “call center environment” is more cost effective than in-person tellers, though he declined to give specific figures.

Other banks have taken different approaches to more advanced, self-service banking. Wells Fargo said it’s Assisted Service ATMs, which include large touchscreens, allow customers to conduct every transaction possible with a traditional teller. The bank added one of these ATMs at its Pacific Station branch in May, but doesn’t have any specific plans to install others in the county.


Chase has 33 of its E-ATMs in San Diego, which “look like a giant iPad and feel like one,” according to spokeswoman Suzanne Alexander. The first batch, which lacks some of the more advanced features of the other banks’ more recent machines, was installed in August 2012. They can issue working debit cards to customers opening a new account or in need of a replacement, on top of processing credit card payments and dispensing more varied denominations.

Allen, the Bank of America executive, said the video ATMs have handled about 20 million transactions since 2013, though about half of the bank’s customers use the machines for standard transactions without the need for a video teller.

“The on-screen teller is just one more option,” he said. “But self-service banking is no longer a trend. It’s the standard.”


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