BMO Harris Bank Adopts 'Cardless Cash' Technology

Posted On: 3/25/2015

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TAGS: ATM, automatic teller machine, BMO Harris, Wintrust Financial, RBS, NatWest, Mobile Cash, Connie Stefankiewicz, mobile transactions, ATM Industry Association, vending, vending machine

CHICAGO -- BMO Harris Bank, Chicago's second largest bank, has announced that 750 of its ATMs, including 400 in the immediate Chicagoland area, will now offer consumers the choice of using their smartphone rather than debit cards. Called Mobile Cash, the rollout is seen as a major push toward what has been dubbed "cardless cash."

BMO Harris joins other banking institutions, including Wintrust Financial, RBS and NatWest in adopting the technology. However, BMO Harris represents the largest commitment to the technology to date with a cardless option at more than half of its 1,300 ATMs throughout Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Additionally, another 150 ATMs in its extensive network are slated for the Mobile Cash enhancement by June.

"Smartphones are quickly becoming the singular device that people use to help manage their life," said Connie Stefankiewicz, head of North American channel strategy and solutions at BMO Financial Group. "BMO Harris is continuing to invest significantly in technology that is designed to address consumers' evolving preferences."

As proponents of cardless cash point out, the concept is as easy to use as a debit card. Consumers who download the mobile app simply select the amount they wish to withdraw on their phone's screen, then scan a QR code on the ATM's screen with their phone. The bank and phone then link, and the cash is dispensed. In essence, the customer's cellphone acts in much the same way as a remote for a television set.

According to the ATM Industry Association, mobile transactions at ATMs are expected to grow at a rapid rate over the next five years. Although some early advocates for the technology point out mild benefits associated with it, such as not having to physically interact with a potentially dirty touchscreen, more serious-minded proponents see future value in the layering of consumer benefits and functionality over time. For instance, the criminal practice known as "skimming," in which codes held on debit cards are illegally duplicated, is more difficult with cardless transactions.

To date, standalone ATMs have not adopted the new technology, though many believe it is only a matter of time before cardless cash becomes a standard option at all ATMs.