Put your wallet away.
Royal Bank of Scotland, plus a few other foreign banks, have taken a big step forward in mobile banking. Via the RBS mobile banking app, customers can withdraw cash without even reaching for their wallets. After accessing the password-protected app, users are sent a six-digit pin that can be entered into an ATM. Careful, though. This feature won’t work with just any ATM, but there are 8,000 new RBS, Natwest, and Tesco ATMs across the U.K. that are compatible with the new mobile technology. This card-less cash withdrawal technology had already been in use for RBS customers whose cards had been stolen. Now the 2.6 million RBS customers who have already downloaded the app can skip the debit card or line at the bank to access cash quickly.
Absa, a South African bank owned by Barclays, recently announced it too will be investing heavily in mobile technology. In addition to its app, the plan includes 4,500 new ATMs that will allow customers to make cash deposits, withdrawals, and utility payments using a barcode scanning system. The shift toward mobile for large banks like RBS and Barclays is driven by trying to increase convenience for customers while keeping branch operation costs down. Rather than making a trip to a bank branch and waiting in line, customers can make simple transactions via mobile apps which will in turn allow banks to trim the cost of operating branches.
ATM machines compatible with the RBS and Absa apps are a key part of both banks’ mobile strategy. Absa is working with NCR, a U.S.-based technology company, to provide ATMs compatible with its mobile app. NCR is working with financial institutions in the U.S. to move banking technology forward, but not in an app-based capacity as with Absa or RBS. Since March it has been testing its interactive teller ATM technology – a virtual teller that can help customers with a variety of transactions when branches are closed or when all human tellers are busy. Whether or not any U.S. banks will try a strategy similar to RBS or Absa has yet to be seen.
These new mobile banking strategies have a long way to go before becoming the norm, but it will be interesting to see how they are viewed by customers and whether or not other banks will try similar ideas. In any case, if a mobile app becomes the new ATM card it will give us all one more reason not to lose our smartphones.