Friday Features: Mobile Order-ahead Cash


The so-called cardless ATM has been around for awhile. I remember seeing one at the Wincor Nixdorf booth at BAI Retail Delivery four or five years ago. I thought it was a good idea at the time, but not something that would change my behavior. I mean, how hard is it to swipe your card and type in a PIN at an ATM?

But I’ve done a 180 and now think it will be a standard and widely used mobile banking feature (at least until we get cash out of widespread use). Two recent events changed my thinking:

1. I began using Starbucks mobile ordering. When I first heard about the pilot, I thought it would be useful for busy urban locations, especially Manhattan. But since we rarely have a line at Starbucks in our neighborhood, I didn’t expect it to change my behavior. But I was wrong and find myself addicted to it (the mobile ordering, not necessarily the coffee). When we were in San Jose earlier this month, I kept reaching for my phone to order ahead, forgetting it hasn’t rolled out nationwide yet. And it was a bit annoying. It’s just a better consumer experience to order from your saved transaction list, rather than reciting the whole thing at the counter.

2. FIS SVP Doug Brown gave me a live demo at a functional ATM of their Cardless Cash Access solution shown at Finovate two weeks ago (FIS demo video here). As with Starbucks mobile order, a small, yet noticeable, improvement in user experience can be detected. Privacy is improved, control is better, and login is easier. But the most important benefit is improved security. Instead of feeling vulnerable fumbling with a wallet or handbag at a machine, you just swoop in, scan the barcode, and the money spits out. FIS data from the Wintrust pilot showed that time at the ATM was reduced from 40+ seconds to 8 or 9 seconds (does not include the time it takes on the mobile app to order the cash). And as a nice side benefit, cardless access also removes the whole issue of ATM skimming.


Other than in the Chicago area (FIS clients BMO Harris and Wintrust), cardless ATMs are not in widespread use in the United States. Some major rollouts around the world include:

But when it does come a bank in my neighborhood, count me in. In the meantime, it’s time to fire up the Starbucks app and order another Americano.


Other mobile ATM demos at Finovate:
1. FIS first teased cardless cash access in a joint mobile-wallet demo with Paydiant, now part of Paypal, at FinovateSpring 2013 (video here; cash-access piece begins at 5:41).
2. PrivatBank launched a mobile-access-only ATM at FinovateSpring in 2014 (video here).


The End of Non-Automated-Teller Deposits


This month marked a turning point in my relationship with our business bank. Except for the odd check in a foreign currency, we’ve stopped using the teller to deposit checks.

We could use mobile remote capture, but since we walk or drive by a branch most days, it’s easier (and probably faster) to just stop by and make the deposit. But we no longer go inside to the teller line. All the Chase branches in our neighborhood have image-capture ATMs, they are rarely busy and are open 24/7.

We can feed in our usual stack of 6 or 7 checks in a minute or two, saving 4 or 5 minutes from doing it with a teller. And we walk away with a picture of the checks deposited, something you don’t get from the teller or your mobile phone. True, printed copies are redundant with the online images, but the paper records are reassuring for us and our bookkeeper.


Bottom line: I know that ATMs are enormously expensive to purchase, maintain and stock with fresh $20s. But it looks like their image-capture capability, combined with mobile remote deposit and check-image storage in online banking, has finally created a package that substantially reduces the need for the tellers they were named after.

Feature Friday: Ally’s Mobile Cash-Bank Finder & Call-Center-Hold-Time Meter

imageAlly Bank jumped into the mobile fray launching a pair of apps last week, one for customers with account access, and the other an "ATM & Cash-Back Finder," the anyone can use.

imageThe apps are well designed, as you’d expect from a direct bank with 1 million customers and $30 billion on deposit (note 1). But there were two novel features worth highlighting:

1. Real-time wait time in the call center: The mobile app contains a very prominent real-time indicator of just how long you’ll be on hold if you call Ally Bank. I’ve already raved about the Website version of this feature, so I won’t go into much detail. But it makes even more sense to place it front and center on an app on a mobile phone used to call the bank (see left screenshot below).   

2. Cash-back locations included with ATM finder: While I’m not sure if this is an industry first, but after a fairly extensive search in the Apple App Store came up empty, I know it’s not common. Ally combines ATM locations and places where you can get cash back at the POS into a single map and/or list view (see right screenshot below).   

Ally mobile banking app                  Ally ATM & Cash Finder app 
for customers                                              for anyone                           

Call Ally feature in mobile app      Mobile map from Ally shows ATM and cash-back POS locations

Ally also makes sure its website visitors know they’ve gone mobile with a clever graphic in the middle-right of the homepage.

Ally homepage featuring new mobile offering (3 May 2012)

Ally Bank homepage announces new mobile apps


1. Ally announced the 1-million-customer milestone along with mobile apps (press release). Compared to a year ago, accounts were up 30% and deposits grew 25%.
2. While this could increase call-center calls, Ally must believe the customer advocacy positioning makes up for the increased costs.

Homepage Hits: Bank of America Promotes Image ATMs

imageI look at banking sites a lot, and sometimes a page or promotion strikes me as a cut above the  rest. For example, today’s Bank of America promotion of its image ATMs is eye-catching and must be gathering substantial clickthroughs (more on that below). 

Technically, everything about the promotion is first-rate, from the color to the typography to the copy. But what I really like is how this positions the bank as the place for anyone who appreciates elegant technology solutions to their everyday problems. 

Bank of America personal homepage (21 April 2011, Seattle IP address, customer cookies)

Bank of America homepage (21 April 2011, Seattle IP address, customer cookies)

However, the landing page (below) leaves a lot to be desired. A video of someone using the ATM would be perfect. How about links to an FAQ for those with more questions about the technology, risks, costs, guarantees, availability and so on? And a link to the checking account signup form would seem appropriate. But at least BofA did direct people to its ATM finder (in two places). 

Landing page


Bottom line: This BofA effort reminds me of the advertising adage that the worst thing you can do is put out good advertising for a bad product. Before the bank put such an appealing visual on its homepage, it should have put together more content for those clicking through. It’s not bad, just a bit of a wasted opportunity. 

Wells Fargo Launches Much-Needed Personal Finance Tool: ATM Cash Tracker

image While full-functioned personal financial management (PFM) has its strategic advantages, the truth is that most consumers will never use a financial tool that takes longer than the length of a YouTube video to figure out (note 1).

That’s why I’m a big fan of what Wells Fargo has done with My Spending Report, a drop-dead simple method for periodically seeing how out-of-control your spending is. All you do is click on the appropriate tab within online banking and bang, you are instantly looking at a pre-categorized spending analysis. Let’s call it one-click PFM.

ATM Cash Tracker (press release), the newest tool from the bank, is similarly simple to set up and use. Although it’s initially designed for ATM users, the concept would work well online and even better via a mobile app.

Wells customers can add a Cash Tracker button to their personalized ATM menu (see first screenshot). When selected, the new tool will reveal the total cash withdrawn during the current month along with the average during the past 12 months. It tracks only cash withdrawn from Wells Fargo ATMs. 

That’s a great ATM innovation, but it will be even better when extended to mobile/online and applied to all cash use. As soon as I take money out of any machine (not just Wells Fargo) or receive cash back at the POS, my total cash use should be reflected on an online/mobile widget along with historical comparison. And users should have the option to tag the cash with spending categories to help assign it to the proper My Spending Report bucket.

And for users opting for emailed ATM receipts instead of paper ones (note 2), the Cash Tracker totals could be added to the virtual receipt (see second screenshot).

Wells Fargo personalized ATM menu
Note: New ATM Cash Finder not shown

Wells Fargo personalized ATM menu

Wells Fargo customers can choose to have their ATM receipt emailed
Note: Option E (below) allows users to hide their account balance from showing on the ATM screen.

Wells Fargo ATM e-receipt options


1. And I’m one of those people, so this is not meant to be a condescending remark. Just a fact.  
2. Wells Fargo released the ATM e-receipt option in June (press release)
3. Photo credit: Colin/thetruthabout
4. For more on online personal financial management (OFM), see our recent Online Banking Report

Bank of America Implies that Branch Network Could Shrink 10% in Next Three Years

imageIn what will surely be the first in a long string of similar headlines, the top of  yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Money & Investing section declared:

BofA Plans to Cut 10% of Branches

The article, which has been picked up by nearly 100 news sites in the past 24 hours, reported that Bank of America was planning on reducing the size of its 6,000-branch network. There were no details on timing or whether the bank was retreating from certain markets or was simply pruning overlapping branches broadly.

But in later interviews with bank execs, it sounded like Bank of America was merely predicting a gradual shrinkage in its branch network over the next three years, and had no firm plans for specific closures. Here’s a followup quote from president Liam McGee as reported by Charlotte NPR station WFAE:

“I think <CEO Lewis> was asked a question, ‘Boy, could there be x-percentage less branches in the next few years?’ And he was just saying, ‘Yeah, could be, and if there was it would be in magnitude of this as opposed to a much higher number.'”

McGee says the bank is going through a 3-year evaluation process that could result in fewer branches, but that no particular number is targeted. He says customers’ changing habits are driving the process.

What I found more interesting in the debate were some of the numbers the bank tossed out showing the growth of it’s non-branch delivery:

  • Nearly 50% of deposits are made in ATMs…up amazingly from 33% six months ago. The bank didn’t say whether this was NUMBER of deposits or VALUE of deposits, but it’s likely the former. Also, it’s unclear if remote deposits made via scanner are included in the total. That new technology is making a significant dent in branch-based deposits at many financial institutions.
  • 2.8 million customers are now using the mobile channel which was introduced in mid-2007. That’s an average of about 120,000 new customer per month. However, growth appears to have accelerated slightly this year. In early Feb, the bank said it had 2 million mobile banking customers; so in the past 5.5 month, growth has been just under 150,000 new users per month.   
  • The bank has a 60% market share in online bill payment; an amazing penetration for a bank with 12% of the country’s deposits. 

1. See our Online Banking Report: The Demise of the Branch (April 2006), for more on the long-term trends in the mix of branch and alternative delivery.

MasterCard Launches ATM Hunter iPhone App

image A few weeks ago there wasn’t a single dedicated ATM finder in Apple’s App Store, and now there are three, not counting the bank-branded versions (more on that below). MasterCard is the latest entrant with a cute app called ATM Hunter (see inset; iTunes link) launched six days ago.

The free app can lead you and your iPhone to any of more than one million ATMs worldwide. The app automatically senses your location and lists nearby machines. And it’s integrated with Google maps so you can map the location with a single click.

Unlike other ATM finders, MasterCard’s version has a helpful filter to zero in on the following ATM types:

  • surcharge-free
  • drive-thru
  • wheelchair accessible
  • 24-hour
  • deposit sharing

It also has a “share” function (upper-right of second screenshot below) that allows you to text the ATM location to a friend or to yourself for later reference. 

Here’s what’s in the app:

                         Main page                                   List after “location” search

image     image

              Filtering by feature                                           ATM detail

image     image 

The launch is supported with a webpage at MasterCard’s (see screenshot below).

Bottom line: It’s an excellent app that should prove popular; however, I wonder if MasterCard is encroaching a bit on its banking clients’ turf. Location-based ATM/branch finders are one of the cornerstones of a retail bank’s mobile application (note 1). If customers are already using MasterCard’s app, they have less reason to go mobile with their own financial institution.

On the other hand, the vast majority of financial institutions that don’t yet have their own mobile app can safely recommend MasterCard’s app and keep customers from using a banking competitor’s app. 

MasterCard’s ATM Hunter landing page (link, 10 April 2009)


1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking: iPhone Edition.
2. Apple is approaching 1 billion downloads since the App Store opened last July. The company is celebrating the coming milestone with a $15,000 gift to the person that downloads lucky 1 billion. It also has a huge ticker on its website (below) that counts to the big number in real time (here).

Billion-download counter at Apple’s website (10 April 2009, 6 PM Pacific)


ING’s Ultra-ATM Finder Android App Uses Augmented Reality (AR)

image While working my way through the RSS backlog tonight,
I found a post from Rob Findley at The Bank Channel, I wish I’d seen a week ago. It would have made a nice example in our latest Online Banking Report on the iPhone and other mobile applications

image Last month, Dutch giant ING released a Google Android mobile application called ING Wegwijzer (see translated page below), that goes one step beyond the iPhone’s GPS-enabled ATM finder apps.

In the ING (Netherlands) version, you have three choices of how to view the nearest ATMs (see below):

  • List
  • Map (regular or satellite)
  • Camera

The camera option is very cutting edge. Users point the camera in their G1 mobile phone camera (inset) and the app overlays a pointer to the nearest ATM (see below). The application works for all ATMs, ING-owned and others, but only in The Netherlands. 

The application was developed for ING by SprxMobile using technology from Australia’s Austria’s Mobilizy.

I saw a Japanese startup demonstrate a broader mobile shopping app at TechCrunch50 last September, the Sekai camera from Tonchidot, but this is the first production app I’ve seen using the technology.

Bottom line: This is probably overkill in terms of a mobile ATM finder. However, it shows the power and versatility that’s rapidly being engineered into mobile phones.   

ATM location as pointed out by ING app running in camera viewfinder


ATM locations also displayed via typical mapping

image       image

ING landing page for the Wegwijzer (link) (Google translation, 18 March 2009)


New Online Banking Report Published: Mobile 2.0 — iPhone Edition

image This is a report I’ve been meaning to write for a few months, but it kept getting pushed back for more pressing (Growing Deposits in the Digital Age) or timely (Year-end Wrap and Forecast) reports.

But a few days ago, we put the finishing touches on the latest Online Banking Report. It will be mailed to subscribers by the end of this week. It’s also available online here. There’s no charge for current subscribers; others may access it immediately for US$495.


Mobile Banking 2.0: iPhone Edition
How to build a smartphone app even
your CFO will love

In the report (press release), we outline the reasons why every financial institution should consider an iPhone app, even if it’s just a simple surcharge-free-ATM/branch finder like 1st Mariner Bank (iTunes link; see note 1) or a one-screen interface to your mobile website, essentially what Bank of America started with last year. Being on the iPhone is like having a website in 1995. Just by being there, even if it’s crappy, you are ahead of the curve. And for the rest of time, you can brag that you were an early adopter of all things mobile.

And the icing on the cake, you get to slap Apple iPhone pictures all over your website. Baltimore, MD-based 1st Mariner, a bank that doesn’t appear to even support basic mobile banking (note 2) has the most iPhone-ish website in the land (see screenshots below).

The report also looks at:

  • Mobile banking application market (Apple’s App Store, RIM’s Blackberry App World, and Google’s Android Market)
  • Mobile banking forecast (U.S.)
  • 33 features to consider for your mobile banking app
  • Leveraging iPhone hype to increase interest in financial products and services
  • Legal issues in mobile banking from our guest columnists at Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel

1st Mariner Bank homepage (16 March 2009)
Note: Nice job with the St. Patty’s day theme too!


1st Mariner iPhone landing page (16 March 2009)


1. The 1st Mariner app, built by PointAbout, identifies the nearest of 16,000 surcharge-free MoneyPass ATMs. It also features other integrated apps for local weather, lowest gasoline prices, accident alerts, traffic (powered by MapQuest), grocery stores, and Zagat restaurant listings (but not reviews or ratings).
2. Ironically, if you navigate to the bank’s website on your iPhone, you cannot even see its iPhone homepage graphic (shown above) because the graphic is Flash-based which is not supported by the iPhone’s Safari browser

Allpoint Surcharge-Free ATM Finder Launches on iPhone

image This is the application I wanted to build, a surcharge-free ATM finder, but my business partner wisely talked me down from that ledge last month (see note 1). I can officially deep-six that idea with the launch of Regular Rate and Rhythm Software‘s Allpoint ATMs: Surcharge-free ATM Locator.

The app went on sale today in the Apple App Store for a one-time $1.99 fee (iTunes link). The app, which directs users to one of 37,000 Allpoint ATMs, could not be simpler: 

  • Launch the app
  • See the nearest Allpoint ATM
  • Tap for walking/driving directions courtesy of Google maps (see inset

Using WiFi, it took 19 seconds from the moment I pressed the application button to when the nearest ATM location was listed, inside a Safeway five blocks away (note 2). With WiFi off (Edge network), it took just 4 seconds longer. Mapping the location, if necessary, took a few more seconds.

There are very few finance apps where users will willingly pay a fee. But this ATM finder, which saves about two bucks every time its used (note 3), should be popular at $1.99. Of course, it won’t be long before the free, ad-supported version comes along, so the windfall may be short-lived.

Bottom line: This is a great tool for credit unions, community banks, and direct banks looking to compete against the massive ATM networks of the major banks. The best strategy is to build this right in to your own iPhone/Android/Blackberry app. But until then, you can at least point customers to this app.

1. While it’s a great opportunity for financial institutions, or scrappy coders to build, it’s ultimately not what we want to focus on. Still, it could be a gold mine, at least until financial institutions, especially credit unions and community banks, start adding it to their own iPhone applications.
2. This was news to me, even though I’ve lived in then neighborhood for a decade. 
3. Assuming you would otherwise use an ATM which levies a $2 surcharge.

Surcharge-Free ATM Finder

Westsuburbanbank_atmfinder_small_2Illinois-based West Suburban Bank <>, which offers an array of prepaid card services through its subsidiary, Prepaid Solutions USA <> is promoting payroll cards to employers.

Westsuburbanbank_atmfinderThe powercash card website, powered by FundXpress <>, includes a surcharge-free ATM finder that points to nearby machines within Allpoint's 32,000 ATM network <> (click on inset for closeup).

The surcharge-free ATM is an important benefit for payroll card clients, because it allows them to point their employees to ATMs where they can withdraw their paychecks without an additional charge.


Verifone Acquires Lipman—and the Future


Verifone Holdings Inc. bought Israel’s Lipman Electronic Engineering Ltd. last week for a total of $793 million, giving Verifone pole position against its nearest rival in the point-of-sale terminal business, Hypercom Corp.

The deal, expected to close following regulatory and shareholder approvals in the fourth quarter, is engineered around a complex combination of cash and stock. It includes a special dividend that the companies would only say would likely exceed $23 million. An unspecified cap on the deal, based on undisclosed conditions, makes it almost impossible to fully value the transaction. Verifone is borrowing most of the money for the deal from an unidentified lending syndicate, and refinancing its existing debt, for a total of $540 million. 

The stock market liked the deal: Verifone’s shares spiked more than 10 percent on the news before trending back to the $30 range at which they had been trading before the news.

One good reason for that approval is the fact that Lipman’s business is strongest in relatively untapped markets like India, China, Eastern Europe and Brazil, all of which have relatively under-developed point-of-sale terminal markets. Lipman's product line is strong in advanced point-of-sale terminals, including contactless and Internet-protocol devices, and advanced ATMs.

“Arguably, the growth of this industry is in the emerging markets,” says Sam Ditzion, president of Tremont Capital Group. “Look at China. The percentage of consumers that have credit or debit cards today, versus five or ten years form now, is going to be absolutely extraordinary.”

That phenomenon is also in operation in the other markets Lipman has been active in, says Ditzion, and should greatly help Verifone’s future growth, assuming Verifone can preserve and extend Lipman’s footprint in those markets.

The deal will also reinforce Verifone’s bottom line. Verifone’s 2005 net income was $33.2 million on revenues of $485.3 million, and Lipman’s were $20 million on revenues of $235.4 million. Hypercom, by contrast, reported a 2005 net loss of $33.3 million on revenues of $245.2 million.

What the deal will not do is bring Verifone into the ranks of corporate point-of-sale vendors, a space currently dominated by IBM and NCR Corp. Aside from the sheer size disparity—NCR’s 2005 net income was $529 million on net revenues of $6 billion—Verifone and Lipman both sell to smaller operations than the large retail chains that typically use IBM and NCR systems.

This fact hasn’t diminished investor enthusiasm for Verifone. Since it went public last May, Verifone’s stock has risen over 300 percent; shares originally priced at $10.50 now trade in the $30 range.

The general approbation on Wall Street wasn’t universal, however; Standard & Poor’s, for instance, lowered its outlook on the announcement to negative from stable, mainly because of execution concerns. S&P left its credit rating of Verifone at BB-.

“It does seem that this acquisition cements Verifone’s lead [in its niche],” says Lucy Patricola, the S&P analyst who covers Verifone. ”Our concerns were really that they have yet to do an acquisition this substantial. From what I know, management has done very well running Verifone, so they certainly bring something to the table, but this acquisition is of a size and a scope in which they’re untested.”

The problem for Verifone is that it is already composed of several product lines from previous acquisitions, and it’s acquiring quite advanced systems from Lipman, including terminals in which Verifone has little experience manufacturing  or supporting.

That combination—unabsorbed product lines combined with new, advanced products—will be a challenge for Verifone executives, despite their good track record, and is an issue that’s tripped up acquisitions before.

This is especially true because acquisitions typically result in a certain exodus of top executives and important technical staff of the acquired company, stripping the buyer of the talent and internal knowledge it needs to hit the ground running with its new products. Considering the fact that so many of Lipman’s recent sales have been in relatively underdeveloped markets—markets that lack the sort of readily available, technical support infrastructure that’s a commonplace in the United States—those facts may result in unexpected problems for Verifone, in turn creating sudden expenditures.

“Those are some of our concerns,” says Patricola. “There’s also the concern that the increase in leverage might be worse than they’re projecting because of some issue [related to integration matters] that might lead them to spend more money than they’re planning to.” Integration costs, she adds, “are always the issue.” (Contacts: Tremont Capital Group, Sam Ditzion, 617-482-8866; Standard & Poor’s, Lucy Patricola, 212-438-3006)