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ATMs provide an excellent way to reach underbanked consumers

ATMs provide an excellent way to reach underbanked consumers

Americans from all walks of life continuously turn to ATMs to perform financial tasks.

A study from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. found that the number of unbanked Americans is declining. In 2015, 7 percent of the population lacked a bank account, compared to 7.7 percent just two years earlier.

While this trend is showing positive momentum, the situation is far from perfect. That 7 percent of the population represents 9 million households. Another 19.9 percent of Americans (about 24.5 million households) were underbanked, representing negligible change from 2013.

An underbanked person typically has a checking or savings account but also relies heavily on services provided outside the banking system for money management. These individuals should be viewed as potential customers, and ATMs can help get them in the door.

ATMs bring relief to the underbanked

Living without a bank account can be frustrating at times. Banking alternate services like pawn shops and payday loans often come with high fees or can be unreliable.

However, for many people who either don't have access to a bank branch or are wary to trust the banking system, an ATM is a good compromise, David Tente, the executive director of the ATM Industry Association, told American Banker.

"If the first step in converting an unbanked person to a banked person is a trip to an ATM to cash a check, for example, some might actually prefer a nonbank ATM," Tente elaborated.

Makeshift checking accounts by way of prepaid cards and ATMs

Some un- or underbanked consumers turn to general purpose reloadable prepaid cards for some of their financial needs, according to a study conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The study found that more than 23 million Americans use prepaid cards on a regular basis.

ATMs are frequently a preferred way to either access cash or load more funds onto the cards. Essentially, these consumers are using the ATM as a do-it-yourself bank branch. FDIC found through its research that more than two-thirds of consumers use ATMs on a regular basis, with about one-fifth turning to these machines for their primary method of accessing funds.

Inclusive banking trends drive ATM market growth

Using ATMs as a way to reach un- and underbanked populations isn't a new concept. According to a study conducted by Global Market Insights, Inc., a desire to bring banking services to more consumers is pushing up ATM demand. By 2023, the  market share for ATMs is projected to be more than $26 billion.

June 2, 2017