ATMs are free – but not all of them

Believe it or not, sometimes I blog about things other than transport. If you want to look purely at transport posts, try this link.

Commonwealth Bank (CBA) announced on 24th September that all their ATMs were free for use by customers of any Australian bank.

The same day, the rest of the Big 4 scrambled, and matched that pledge… but CBA had the jump on them, and some of the others couldn’t implement it straight away.

Over the past few weeks, they’ve got it done, so ATMs are fee-free for all Australian cardholders since:

(By the way, ANZ loses points here. Not only does their press release not specify the date the fees are waived (it just says “early October 2017”) it’s also on a horrible web site that forces you to download a PDF, rather than simply viewing the content on a web page. It’s also amusing that both ANZ and NAB still have the media parts of their web site not using HTTPS. You’d think banks would be more security-conscious.)

ATMs in Emporium

It’s not hard to see why the banks are making their ATMs free. Effectively it lets them consolidate their ATM networks, when the use of cash is dropping. In my suburb, CBA, ANZ, Westpac, NAB and Bank Of Melbourne all have a presence; I haven’t counted, but probably about 8 ATMs between them, within a few hundred metres.

So does this change mean all ATMs are free for all Australian cardholders? No! Some to watch out for:

  • Bankwest ATMs, prominent in 7-11s, are not free except for customers of Bankwest and CBA — despite being a CBA subsidiary. (It appears non-7-11 Bankwest machines will be made free, but I can’t find official info on Bankwest’s web site)
  • Other minor smaller financial institutions such as Bendigo Bank and Suncorp
  • Minor ATM brands such as Banktech and CardTronics — hardly surprising they’ll continue to charge. Presumably that’s how they make money.
  • RediATMs that are not at NAB branches — see below

NAB ATM in Bentleigh

I was initially confused by RediATM (owned by Financial company Cuscal). NAB ATMs seem to include RediATM branding, but RediATM appears to have a wider network. RediATM’s web site says institutions in their partner network have free access, but their FAQs say:

Yes, anyone can use a rediATM as long as your card is accepted, although you will be charged a direct charge fee. To avoid a direct charge fee at a rediATM, your financial institution must be partner of the rediATM network.

NAB has confirmed that RediATM-branded machines at NAB branches are really NAB machines, and are free forall Australian cards:

ATMs have been around for a long time. Check this video from 1969 when they were first devised:

Initially the waiving of fees looks like a win for cardholders, at least Australian ones.

Rule of thumb: just stick to the Big Four’s ATMs, and you won’t pay fees.

I’m certainly using a lot less cash than I used to, thanks largely to Paypass, so I’m not at all surprised the banks are making moves to reduce the number of ATMs.

Daniel vs the ATM

My recollection is that Automatic Teller Machines used to be much simpler devices, and much faster. I’m sure back in the day I timed myself getting cash using the basic buttons and 1-2 line dot-matrix LED “display” they had back then and had it down to under 30 seconds.

These days ATMs are complex beasts with colour screens and animated ads, but the functionality to customers is almost the same as it was back then: put your card in, enter your PIN, do an enquiry (check your balance) or make a withdrawal, from account Savings, Cheque or Credit, enter the amount, then take your cash and card and let the next person have a go.

Each transaction takes waaaaaay longer than it used to. It’s not just the ads, the whole thing seems slower.

Bank of Melbourne ATM: frozen

So anyway, I sidled up to an ATM last night to get some cash. Slipped the card in, and as usual, the face of Jason the local bank manager popped up, with an invitation to contact him via the details on the receipt. (I never opt for receipts, and the ad is the same even when the ATM can’t print receipts, as it often can’t.)

Normally after a few seconds of Jason’s attentive stare, it then warns you to cover your hand as you enter the PIN… despite that Bank Of Melbourne ATMs all seem to have a built-in cover.

This time however, it got stuck on Jason. It had frozen up.

I gave it what seemed like a very generous period of time before I started punching buttons. Cancel, Clear, even that button to trigger the audio prompts through a headphone socket. No response.

Oh terrific.

After a minute or two, it was obviously not going to unfreeze, or give up the card. Jason’s invitation to ring him was still on the screen, but I obviously wouldn’t be getting the receipt with his phone number on it to actually do so… though it was around 6pm anyway; I doubt he’d still be at work.

So I found a (barely readable) enquiries phone number on the ATM and rang it. I thought at least if I can get the card cancelled before I walk away, nobody can use it if the ATM spits it out.

The bank’s hotline of course had an automatic menu wherein no option quite described the situation I was in. Was the card lost or stolen? Well, not really lost, since I knew it was in this ATM. Stolen? Again, only if you count the bank’s own automaton as having stolen it.

I chose the option that loosely approximated my situation, and after trying to tell the machine by way of the phone’s Hash button that I had no idea what my Access Number, Card Number or Access Password was, and some minutes on hold (everybody’s idea of fun), I then spoke to a guy who said he couldn’t help, and he transferred me.

All the while I was standing in front of the ATM blocking anybody else using it, hoping I didn’t look like a dunderhead who can’t use such a basic machine, or some kind of ATM-hog. Thankfully nobody else wanted it.

The lady I then got transferred to was able to help… at least, after making me answer some security questions (including my verbal password, though she never made clear if I had correctly guessed or not), she cancelled the card and ordered a replacement, and usefully also to connect one of my other cards with the bank to the account I had intended to access. I was able to withdraw cash from another ATM using the second card. Hey cool, maybe I don’t even need the replacement!

I also asked her if she wanted to know precisely which of her bank’s ATMs had gone kaputsky. No; she implied she knew already. Perhaps as its last gasp before freezing it sent a message back to base saying it had grabbed my card, and she was able to see that information.

Oddly, passing an hour or two later, the ATM appeared to be working again. Or perhaps it was a trap, lying in wait to lure another unsuspecting customer into giving up their card.

I’ll leave you with this snippet from Wikipedia:

Today the vast majority of ATMs worldwide use a Microsoft Windows operating system

Hmmm. That might explain a lot.

A few pics for Thursday

Pac-Man on Lonsdale Street
Pac-man on Lonsdale St
(though if the ghost is blue, Pac-Man must have had a power pill, and should be chasing, not chased)

I don’t want to seem paranoid, but I don’t think this is a real ATM:
That's not a real ATM

Behold! The temple of Gorm!
The temple of Gorm

Finding an ATM

Having moved offices to Latrobe Street, I wanted to know where the nearest ATM is — that is, those of my preferred (no fee) banks, St George or Westpac.

The St George ATM/Branch locator will only show five results — including Westpac ATMs.

St George ATM locator

Searching postcode 3000, it shows me those closest to the the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, none of which are west of Queen Street. I know of at least one ATM on William Street near Bourke Street, but even when dragging the map around, it won’t show any others.

The Westpac site seems a little better, but doesn’t appear to show St George ATMs, only Westpac ones.

I’ve sent some feedback to the St George people. Will be interested to see how/if/when they fix it.

Update lunchtime: The Commonwealth Bank locator has similar issues if you just enter a postcode, only showing the 5 closest. But it does have the option of entering a full address, but if you don’t spell La Trobe with a space, it (and others) assume it’s Little Latrobe Street, thus showing me ATMs several blocks away instead.

The ANZ one shows about 15, none nearby. If you search by street name, like Commonwealth, you have to put the space in La Trobe, otherwise it has real problems.

The NAB one seems to show all results, but in pages of 5 per page, and with no combined map, which is hopelessly unuseable. (Imagine that, in 2010!) It allows me to enter a full address, but it has the same problems with La Trobe as the Commonwealth does.