Automated Teller Mache Usage Growing despite Lack of Promotion Efforts, Fears

Article excerpt

Accept the inevitable. The automated teller machine is here to stay.

During the 1980s, the number of teller machines used for banking services around the country has mushroomed from 14,000 to more than 65,000. Bank customers either love the metal monsters for their efficiency, speed and liberal hours or hate them based on principle.

Many still don't like the idea of taking money from a machine or, worse yet, depositing checks into one. They don't like people staring over their shoulders.

They may dislike read-out messages that in some cases have the audacity to use their given names (``Have you completed your transactions now, Andrew?''). Or they don't like the ``beep-beep-beep'' noise on many teller machines that's designed to hurry them up when making a deposit.

Despite this, bank customers are using automated teller machines (ATMs) more and more. After all, have you looked at how long the lines are to see a human teller in most bank lobbies?

``Month by month, ATM usage keeps growing, whether we promote it or not,'' said Patricia Hudson, business manager for debit card products at San Francisco-based Bank of America. ``We're also seeing more customers willing to make deposits, an acknowledgement that they now have greater confidence in machine accuracy.''

Along with this growth has come a growth in fees. Some banks have no transaction fees, while others exact charges ranging from 25 cents to $2 per transaction. With some ATM networks, banks don't charge their own customers, but slap a fee on customers of other banks who use their machines. Some banks price their checking accounts less expensively for those who primarily use ATMs rather than human tellers.

As a result of all this hocus-pocus, it pays to find out a bank's pricing policy right away.

Then use common sense to ensure the safety of your money. Don't let anyone know your personal identification number, which is used to give you access to the teller machine. Don't write the number on your plastic access card or store it near the card. Memorize it.

To prevent loss or theft, use the same caution as you would with cash or credit cards. …