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ATMs remain important despite attempts to go cashless

ATMs will have different roles in the future.

As banks make major changes and banking systems evolve, ATMs will have an important role to play in the coming years and decades. With branches transforming into customer service venues for specific products such as loans and mortgages, these machines will have to take on more roles previously reserved for tellers, such as deposits, transfers and withdrawals. Changing economic trends could also mean that the ATM will take on fewer roles, such as its original purpose of dispensing cash to consumers. However, whether that vision of a cashless society will actually occur remains questionable at best, so the odds are likely for physical money and the machines that dispense it to play an important role well into the future.

Where do ATMs stand with nationwide efforts to go cashless?

While many groups discussed the possibility of implementing a cashless society in developed nations, no country made a serious attempt until recently. According to ATM Marketplace, the Danish government passed a law allowing certain businesses to not only primarily accept electronic payment but to also ban cash payment. Many see the law as the first step in a process of eliminating physical money as legal tender, replacing it with electronic means.

The plan has considerable support in Denmark, as more than 40 percent of Danes use MobilePay, a mobile banking and payment app offered by Danske Bank, the country's largest bank. It also has backing from members of the tech community, a long-time evangelist of the idea. CNN Money reported nearby Sweden and Norway have similar situations in play but have yet to pass any laws of this nature. The legal movements opened up discussion of the expenses associated with cash. Studies continually point to a high price, in part due to security, handling and sorting.

At the same time, the loss of cash as a payment option could be problematic in many ways. For one, the switch to electronic payments can marginalize many groups that may not have dependable access or interest in using this method. This includes the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged and recent immigrants. Second, fraud grows parallel to use of mobile banking and other systems. Finally, electronic-only means of payment result in no contingency plans in the event of power failure or Internet outage. It will be interesting to see how Denmark's experiment pans out. Either way, ATMs will continue to serve some purpose in banking, even if it isn't the original intent of dispensing cash.

December 30, 2015