Wells Fargo Releases Card-Free ATMs

By Steven Alvarez,
Money and Investing Writer

The new cutting- edge feature that Wells Fargo has come up with allows customers to make withdrawals using their smartphone. This marks one of the many ways that banks have attempted to advance technologically in order to reach new customers. Six years ago, Chase bank came up with a mobile deposit feature and two years ago, Citibank announced a feature that would allow customers to access an ATM by having it scan their iris.

The former proved successful for Chase bank, however, the latter did not make it past the pilot stage. Technological advancements have not always equated to more success in the banking industry, however, FBI Intelligence asserts that “Wells Fargo in particular should be highly motivated to attract new customers following the bank’s fake application scandal”.

The fake application scandal in which millions of unauthorized accounts were opened dealt a huge blow to Wells Fargo as it lead to the loss hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and the resignation of former CEO John Stumpf. The new feature comes in the wake of this scandal to try to regain customers and improve their falling public opinion.

The card-free feature allows the user to access an ATM using the Wells Fargo smartphone app to request an 8 digit ATM login code that expires within 30 minutes and prompts the user to enter their PIN number. This eliminates the need for a debit card for customers to make withdrawals. Other banks have attempted to launch this feature at limited locations but Wells Fargo announced that this feature will be available at any of the banks 13,000 ATMs nationwide.

With mobile banking becoming more widespread, “Using the phone to tap into an ATM is a logical next step”, claims head of branch and ATM banking for Wells Fargo Jonathan Velline. This next technological step also comes with added security.

Veline says, “The card-free option can be more secure than using a debit card because it reduces the chance that fraudsters can steal and copy the numbers on your debit card.”

The feature requires customers to prove their identity on the app and then enter their PIN number rather than only providing the debit card and the PIN.

The new feature as helpful as it sounds has not been completely praised among industry professionals. ATM manufacturer Wes Dunn says, “Getting out a piece of plastic and inserting it is not so terribly difficult, so outside of being trendy and cool, I fail to see the benefit to the cardholder themselves.” This may be a legitimate concern, however, it cannot be argued that mobile banking is evolving as the channel of choice so either way the bank sees it as a way to digitalize and rebuild their brand. “Banks are exploring technology in a number of ways, including through partnerships with fintechs, membership in global consortia, and via the building of their own in-house solutions”.

As far as Wells Fargo specifically, the company released a recent statement in which they declared, “This new plan is one step in our efforts to restore trust with team members and customers, and we will continue to make additional changes.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 print edition.

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