ATMs in the US: 50 years and counting

By : Colin Gordon

September 29, 2015 12:30 PM

September 2nd 1969 may not be a date that holds much meaning to most people, but for the US banking industry this was the start of a new era as it saw the debut of the country’s first ATM.


America’s first automated teller machine made its appearance at a Chemical Bank branch in Rockville Centre in New York just six weeks after the US landed a man on the moon. (One small step for man…one giant leap for self-service).


This was not the world’s first ATM. Two years earlier Barclays Bank launched the original ATM in its Enfield Town branch in north London on June 27th 1967. But it marked the start of a banking revolution in the US that continues to this day.


At the time, the Docuteller, as was it called, could only dispense cash - a far cry from the multi-functional ATMs we have today. Machines that could accept deposits and allow users to transfer money between accounts came in 1971.


Today, ATMs have evolved from being a mere cash dispenser to a multi-function banking channel where consumers can carry out just about any kind of banking transaction they wish, such as paying utility bills, buying shares and purchasing travel tickets.


Another problem was that the machines were “offline,” meaning there was no way for the bank to know if the customer had enough money in their account to cover the withdrawal. A $150 daily limit was put in place - a practice that by and large continues to this day--albeit at inflation adjusted rates.


From the handful of ATMs in operation around the world in the late 1960s, we now have over 3 million ATMs globally with an estimated four million set to be installed by 2020, according to Retail Banking Research (Global ATM Market and Forecasts to 2020). Cash continues to be even more important now to consumers globally than ever. $14 Trillion USD was withdrawn from ATMs globally in 2014 – a 6% increase from the year before.


ATMs are everywhere, in every conceivable location. From the pair of machines installed by Western Union at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, to PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia’s floating bank branches serving hundreds of remote islands, ATMs can be found wherever you go.


In 1969 an advertisement announced the launch of the Chemical Bank ATM by saying “our bank will open at 9:00 and never close again!” Telephone and online banking has made banking even more accessible around the clock, but it was the ATM that made this 24/7 banking possible in the first place.

Colin Gordon

Financial Services SelfServ, Marketing Manager

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Colin Gordon is a Global ATM Marketing Manager based at NCR’s R&D Center in Dundee, Scotland. Colin is responsible for the marketing of NCR’s financial hardware portfolio with a specific focus on activities such as demand generation, sales enablement, market analysis and customer engagements for the ATM business.