The CUSTOMER HAS SPOKEN. MORE THAN EVER, CASH IS KING.
A cautious economy, the high cost of credit and the growth of the ATM industry have spurred a
purchasing revolution. As a natural occurrence, customers are moving from credit card purchases to debit cards as
their preferred payment method. According to a MasterCard Consumer Segmentation Study, among people that use both
credit and debit cards, debit cards are used more often: 5.9 times per month vs. 5.1 times per month for credit
In a reverse of financial trends a decade ago, many experts believe the credit card industry is
showing stagnant growth. By contrast, the booming ATM marketplace is finding its machines in an unprecedented number
of locations. In fact, a recent Nilson Report predicts that by the year 2005, the number of ATMs will double from
1997 numbers. For bankcard ISOs, this presents not only a challenge, but also a significant opportunity.
EAI (dba USB Merchant Services) was a sales organization exclusively dedicated to the sale of
credit card programs. Attracted by the generous per machine commission offered by ATM sales (vs. the average $500
per bankcard placement) and drawn to the per-swipe revenue stream (back-end) generated by ATMs, company president
Bob Olsen added ATMs to their product line to give merchants flexibility and added value. "Our ISAs now offer the
purchasing power of credit card sales, plus the convenience, pull-through and traffic generation provided by having
an ATM on site. With over 15 billion ATM transactions a year, we can't afford not to be in this business!"
ISOs and merchants alike are finding that ATMs mean sales. Credit union industry experts estimate
that more than 60 billion consumer transactions flowed over ATMs in Y2000 and that consumers are using this platform
more than any other financial service delivery point. At the same time, trade publications in the restaurant,
quick-serve, hospitality and convenience store industries report that ATMs increase foot traffic, boost per visit
spending, cut down on check fraud and reduce credit card fees.
Statistics tell the story. In the restaurant industry, for example, association reports show
- ATMs increase traffic up to 30% and increase per visit sales 10%-20%.
- Up to 80% of cash obtained at ATMs in host bars and restaurants is spent on-site.
- At quick serve restaurants we've seen the average check increase up to 58%.
In addition, experts predict that the demand for kiosk ATMs will grow exponentially as the
population of Internet savvy, self-service oriented consumers grows. An August 2000 overview by Dove Consulting
observes that consumers under 55 are particularly likely to use ATMs and are "completely comfortable conducting
The Evolution of a Revolution
On the down side of the ATM "opportunity," even the industry's most ardent supporters admit that
it has had its share of unscrupulous dealers. Salesmen with an eye to make a quick buck often promised outrageous
returns while failing to deliver on those promises. Other abuses resulted in customer service nightmares through
the placement of undependable equipment. While some of those businesses still exist - and need to be warned
about-you can find ATM specialist firms that are sophisticated, dependable partners.
The strongest ATM organizations are those with solid institutional affiliations. The security,
financial backing and network capabilities offered by these relationships establish an unprecedented level of
professionalism. At the same time, ATM companies with strong ISO support have become increasingly attractive to
banks, which recognize the need to penetrate markets and establish quality representation in the field. XtraCash
is one such example.
Business stability and financial reliability within the ATM industry have accelerated the
acceptance of merchant ATMs as has the proven recurring income stream generated by ATMs. However, recognizing the
competitiveness within the ATM industry has increasingly demanded a higher level of ISO accountability, profits,
service and support. Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), Internet accessible transaction reports, fast lease
approvals and equipment installations, as well as capabilities to accept cards from major networks, are common
expectations. ISOs have had to rely on solid corporate relationships in order to deliver on these demands and still
generate significant returns.
ATMs have also proliferated because manufacturers have built machines to be easy loading, secure,
reliable and virtually maintenance-free. In addition, the size of the equipment has decreased and lease/purchase
costs have come down; the newest machines have footprints smaller than two square feet and pay for themselves with
as few as four swipes per day!
While ATMs have boomed, experts predict there's still plenty of room for growth. Certainly,
independent stores remain a strong ATM market. But you can also expect ATMs to pop up in non-traditional locations
…tennis courts to courthouses, beauty parlors to bingo parlors. In addition, there's a growing interest in system
branding, where companies such as McDonald's, major hotel chains, American Express, Safeway and Winn Dixie install
ATMs reflecting their unique corporate identities.
At the same time, ATM fees are also becoming widely accepted. Market research tracks that younger
users are much more willing to incur charges for the conveniences provided by ATMs. And as technology continues to
expand ATM capabilities and deliver new services to consumers, one can easily predict that additional features will
translate into additional usage… and additional residual income to boot! For the ISO, ATMs dispense opportunity.
Because if cash is king, ATMs are the keys to the treasury.
Choosing the Right Partner
Choosing the right ATM company is crucial to the success of an ISO. Here's a quick checklist to ensure your partner
is a strong organization.
Is your ATM company affiliated with a major financial institution? Has that institution supported technology
development and system upgrades?
Who are the ATM company's customers? Can you talk to affiliated ISOs and merchants for references?
Are approvals handled in a timely manner, creating a quick turnaround between the time a lease is signed, a
machine is installed and when you get paid?
Can your ATM company provide service to any size merchant, from single locations to hundreds of sites?
Is there a dedicated sales support team for distributors? Are problems handled promptly? Are machines kept
Will you have ongoing Internet access to daily activity reports? Are detailed statements provided? Are residuals
tracked and paid in a timely manner?
- The typical ATM customer spends 20%-25% more than a non-ATM customer.
- 40% of regular ATM users use the ATM an average of ten times per month.
- 60% of Americans 25-34 years old and 51% of Americans 25-49 years old use ATMs eight times a
month and withdraw an average of $55 each time.
Source: MasterCard Consumer Segmentation Study
How Much Does it Cost?
The average cost of various payment methods (based on time to make payment, back room time to prepare deposits,
bank charges and other charges such as collection fees) are as follows:
Source: AT&T; Global Information Solutions