ATMs Stay Open in Pandemic Economic Shutdown


By ATM Industry Association (ATMIA)

Since their introduction more than 50 years ago, ATMs have become an important element of the U.S. economic system. That importance escalates even further in times of crisis – the first visible evidence of which is often long lines at ATMs, as consumers replenish their cash reserves.

Although we are not seeing the long lines typical of a hurricane or other natural disaster, the closure of some bank branches, restaurants, and retail establishments will make many ATM locations inaccessible. Both financial institution and independent ATM operators are working hard to ensure that all available ATMs are functioning properly and that cash replenishment cycles are keeping up with demand. In recognition of the important role that ATMs play, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency has included ATMs on their list of “essential critical infrastructure”. The March 19th DHS Memorandum, which includes a list of essential workers, can be downloaded from the ATMIA website.

Recent strategies surrounding “branch transformation” have moved some ATMs into the bank branch from outside locations. Branch closings will make those terminals inaccessible to the public. However, most financial institutions outside of downtown business districts offer drive-thru options that will continue to operate.

ATMs operated by independent businesses account for nearly 60% of all ATMs in the U.S., which includes many that are “branded” by financial institutions. Independent ATMs can be found in restaurants, hotels, transportation hubs, and retail establishments of all size and sort, as well as in rural areas where bank coverage is thin. For all those locations that remain open and accessible, independent operators are committed to making certain that their ATMs have cash available and are functioning properly.

Even in normal times, cash remains a preferred payment method for most consumers – and should always be an option that they can choose.

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