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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Technology Update: How to get Cash out of an ATM Without Using a Card

Today, getting hold of cash is all about the ATM.  I really can’t remember the last time I actually went inside a bank and withdrew cash over the counter by writing a cheque for cash. Most young people these days will probably never have had a cheque book at all.  I had to laugh when, researching for this posting, I found this plaintive enquiry on an online message board called 'Straight Dope':
OK, maybe I'm an idiot, but I've honestly never had to deal with this before. I lost my ATM card, and am still waiting for the replacement. In the meantime, my cash supplies are dwindling at a rather alarming rate. I imagine there's some way to go to the bank and get money directly, but I'm a little fuzzy on the details. Any old fogeys have the inside scoop?

You have to feel sorry for the poor sap, but it is also great when us ‘old fogeys’ know how to do something that the whizz-kids don’t!

So, assuming you don't have a chequebook to fall back on, or that it is outside of banking hours, is there a way to withdraw cash via an ATM without using a plastic card? Once upon a time I would have answered with a categorical ‘No’, but times change and technology has moved on. Life moves at a fast pace and we expect things to happen quickly. If you are unfortunate enough to have your debit card stolen, lose your card or simply forget to bring it with you, and you need cash fast, there are now at least a couple of ways round the problem. 

1. Emergency Cash

Some banks now offer a handy ‘Emergency Cash’ service.  To access this facility you have to phone up your bank and report your card lost or stolen.  You will then be given an emergency code number which you key into the ATM, enabling you to withdraw cash without using a card.  What a great idea!  It means you no longer have to wait till the replacement card arrives to get some cash.

2. Use Your Smartphone

You may not have lost or forgotten your card; maybe you just want an alternative to using plastic.  People love their phones, and rely on them for all sorts of purposes: most of us would not dream of going out without one. The rise and rise of mobile phone technology means that they are now far more than just communication devices. It is not just a phone – it’s a digital camera, a web browser, messaging device, media player, games centre, digital library and reading device, a GPS - and now, it's a replacement for your cash card too. 
Back in June 2012 RBS launched a new system to help their customers get cash whenever and wherever they might need it, without the use of a plastic card.  To use the service at some 8,000 RBS, NatWest or Tesco branded ATMs in the UK, customers first have to download the bank’s free app to their mobile phone.  So far nearly 3 million people in the UK have done just that!
ATM scanning a barcode from a phone

NCR have developed a similar service which is in the process of being rolled out worldwide. Instead of being sent a PIN, however, their customers will be sent a barcode they can scan at the ATM. NCR claims the entire process will take under ten seconds. Cash machines won't need to have barcode readers installed, just a software upgrade. The barcode does not contain information about the customer’s account; it just verifies the user's location, so it should be a safe alternative to using cards.

In areas such as India and Africa, with high mobile phone usage, the new system will probably be even more popular than in Europe and the US. It’s noticeable that although Smartphones can also provide cashless payments, these new services, high-tech as they are, still use good old cash. They may solve the problem of a lost or forgotten wallet, but still leave us with the dilemma of what to do in the event of our Smartphone malfunctioning or getting stolen or lost! What a nightmare!


In October 2012 BBC  Radio 4's Money Box programme  reported that complaints of fraud had forced NatWest to suspend their 'Get Cash' service,  which works by downloading a security code via an mobile app.  NatWest have strenuously denied this, saying that the service was at one point temporarily unavailable, but that this was solely due to a technology upgrade.  I see from their website it appears to be up and running again, along with their 'Emergency Cash' service.   If there are any NatWest customers out there who can shed more light, please get in touch.

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