Someone asked me if I could tell them where there’s an “ATM machine” nearby.
WTF? Really? What do you think that M in ATM stands for? Money?
That kicked in a memory stream. I remember when ATMs first came out.
Yes, I am that old, children.
(I also remember when cable sprawl began, and when we started having color televisions, microwaves, and all the kinds of satellite things we now have. Get over it.)
We thought ATMs were great. Before them, you had to park, go inside, get in line, and take care of business, or drive into a line, if there were drive-through tellers, wait, and take care of business. Whichever option you chose, waiting was involved.
There was a forty dollar limit on what we could withdraw from ATMs back then. Forty dollars was a lot more money in that era. A tank of gas cost me less than ten, or maybe just over ten, dollars. Coffee – hello? – was a dollar a cup. Believe it, children.
Banks touted ATMs as a wonderful invention. It would save them so much money, and they would pass all those savings on to you through increased interest rates on your accounts and certificates of deposit. You could get your money from any ATM. Isn’t that great? Yes, it was wonderful!
Then, the banks and credit unions started complaining about the unanticipated costs. There were lines at the ATMs because there were longer lines in the bank, because they’d cut back on tellers to reduce overhead. The number of ATM transactions started to be capped. Going over that number meant you’d be penalized.
Then came the networks. Networks were formed to share the costs and reduce the burdens – for the financial institutions. What it meant for you was that if an ATM wasn’t in your network, you’d be charged for the luxury of using that machine to access your money. Piss me off?
You betcha. We were always wandering around towns, looking for ATMs and asking, “Is that one in our network?” Everyone had their eyes peeled for ATMs, crying out, “There’s one!” Then we’d aim the car that way. Yes, children, this was before ATMs came to be in other businesses, or stores. This was also before debit cards.
The ATMs typically had a list of networks that the institution belonged to. You’d need to figure out if one of those networks included your institution. If you couldn’t find one, you could be charged, with good ol’ Bank of America (who else, right?) leading the way in outrageous fees. Eventually, the banks and credit unions were forced to warn you if you were going to be charged, and accept that fee before going on.
Of course, the reverse of this was not having ATMs, but depending on your bank and credit union by writing checks, or going in, standing in the lobby for a while, and withdrawing some funds. That wasn’t fun, either.
So, even with my complaints (I am Michael, hear me complain), the ATMs are a lot better than the way it was. Just remember to heed the unspoken warning, “User beware.”