The National ATM Council, Inc. (NAC) has declared 2019 “The Year of the ATM in America,” 50 years after the first U.S. ATM was installed. The landmark cash-dispensing terminal, situated on the wall of a Chemical Bank branch in Rockville Centre, New York, went live Sept. 2, 1969. Newspaper ads from Chemical read, “On Sept. 2, our bank will open at 9:00 AM and never close again!”
Largely viewed as a novelty at the time, few anticipated America’s financial services industry was entering an era in which round-the-clock access to cash would become the norm. Despite some initial technical challenges and weather-related issues, the ATM quickly caught on among local consumers.
“Maybe it was a sign of the times. The moon landing was just six weeks before the first ATM appeared on the scene, and people were prepared for technological miracles,” said George Sarantopoulos, NAC Board Chair and CEO of Access One Solutions (Brooklyn, N.Y.) “Americans love their cash and quickly embraced the idea of the ATM when it was first introduced.”
As Sarantopoulos noted, bank-owned ATMs quickly grew to more than 100,000 by 1996. Since that year, when payment network rules were revised, and entrepreneurs first entered the American market, the number of ATMs has more than quadrupled.
ATMs have come to play a significant role in the nation’s economic system, with the U.S. enjoying the highest per capita deployment of these terminals in the world. Consisting largely of small to mid-sized businesses, independent ATM operators now account for almost 60 percent of the approximately 470,000 terminals currently deployed across the nation. These ATMs provide the ready access to cash that helps keep the wheels of the US economy turning smoothly each and every day.
Independent ATMs also serve as an essential financial safety net for millions of America’s unbanked and under-banked citizens. Providing widespread access to cash via prepaid debit cards and government issued electronic benefit transfer (EBT) payment cards, independent ATM entrepreneurs have developed cost-effective ways to serve residents of what would otherwise be banking deserts in inner city and smaller rural communities throughout the US.
“As America’s independent ATM trade association, NAC is planning a special educational outreach during 2019 designed to highlight both this 50-year milestone and the importance of ATMs to US consumers, policymakers, merchants, and related industries,” said Bruce Renard, NAC Executive Director. “We see the 50th anniversary of America’s first ATM as not only a time for reflection and celebration, but also as an important learning opportunity for our nation.”
With the success and widespread presence of ATMs, Renard explained, it’s easy to overlook their history, the key role they play in American life today, and the important potential they hold for our collective economic future.
NAC will be highlighting ATM news and milestones throughout this year-long 50th anniversary celebration, culminating with special events and speakers at the NAC2019 Conference & Expo, scheduled for Oct. 15-17 at Planet Hollywood – Las Vegas. Early bird registration for this industry gathering will be open soon.
For additional information on the National ATM Council, Inc. and ongoing updates on the 50th anniversary celebration, visit the NAC website at: www.natmc.org.