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26 Jun 2017

50 years of the ATM: what will cash machines do in the future?

Find out about the machines that let you buy gold and football tickets as the ATM hits half a century

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever ATM in the UK, and cash machines have served us round-the-clock since the first one launched at the Enfield branch of Barclays bank in London on 27 June 1967.

This was a vital step to put us all in control of our money. Gone were the days of having to wait till Monday morning to withdraw cash as for the first time people could access their money 24/7.

Inventor John Shepherd-Barren reportedly came up with the idea for a cash dispenser when he was in the bath. He told the BBC back in 2007: 'It struck me there must be a way I could get my own money, anywhere in the world or the UK. I hit upon the idea of a chocolate bar dispenser, but replacing chocolate with cash.'

On The Buses star Reg Varney makes the first ever withdrawal
Crowds queue to use the first cash machine

But according to a trade association Payments UK, cash will be overtaken as the UK's most popular payment method as soon as next year - three years earlier than expected, as more and more people switch to using contactless debit and credit cards.

Currently, around half of all transactions are made by cash, with the other half made by debit or credit card. And in 10 years, it's predicted just 21% of payments will be by cash.

The graph shows how spending habits have changed over the last 30 years.

So, with spending habits changing so rapidly, can the70,000 machines operating in the UK remain useful and relevant? We take a look at how banks are changingcash machinesto appeal to a modern customer.

Cash machines in 2017: what can we do now?


Having trialed a contactless cash service at 100 ATMs in late 2016 across the North, allowingusers to withdraw up to £100 without putting their card in an ATM, the bank will now expand the service to1,336 in-branch machines across just over 500 branches.

Barclays told Which? Money that they expect the amount of people using its contactless ATMs to 'significantly increase' in the coming months.

How it works

  • Users tap their contactless debit card against the machines reader before punching in their Pin as usual to withdraw cash. This means they don't have to insert their card into the ATM.
  • Customers who have an up-to-date Android phone can withdraw cash via the Barclays app by tapping their phone on the card reader and put in their pin on their phone or the ATM.


NatWest re-launched its 'Get Cash' app, which allows customers to withdraw up to £130 from an ATM without a card by entering a one-time code generated in the app into the ATM.


The Spanish based bank has bolstered its cash machines by allowing customers to deposit cash and cheques, transfer money and change pin via ATM.

Santander's head of ATM channel Antonio Encinar, recently said 'the future is trying to connect mobile with ATM'.


Looking for a cash machine on a high street is a familiar ordeal. To counter this, the UK's cash machine network launched an app in May 2017 which shows the location of all 70,000 ATMs in the UK.

A bank branch replacement?

Industry association ATMIA say that ATMs allowing customers to deposit cash is only a first step. It's pushing for a nationwide network of 'smart ATMs' which will provide 99% of the services available in a staffed bank branch as UK branch numbers fall dramatically.

Find out more: Mapped: the 482 bank branches closing in 2017

How ATMs are changing abroad

In the US, Chase Bank has already rolled out thousands of card-free ATMs where customers can access money through their phone app. It also allows far higher withdrawals - up to £2,325.

In Spain, it's possible to buy tickets for Barcelona FC home games at an ATM and you don't need a Spanish bank account to do so.

And in typical glitzy style, an Abu Dhabi cash machine dispenses gold bullion bars for those not content with cash. Customers feed dirham notes, the local currency, into the machine and it exchanges it for gold.