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App lets your smartphone dial for dollars at ATMs

Jay MacDonald

In a move that may forever alter the meaning of “dialing for dollars,” global financial services giant FIS will soon enable ATM users nationwide to call ahead for cash from their smartphones, no debit or credit card required.

FIS announced the national launch of its Cardless Cash Access program at this month’s Money2020 Conference in Las Vegas. In recent months, customers of BMO Harris and Wintrust banks in Illinois and City National Bank in New York and New Jersey have already been dialing for dollars as part of the FIS pilot program.

Speed and security figure prominently in the Cardless Cash Access model, which essentially turns your smartphone into a remote control for your nearest cash machine in the time it takes to download the app. If all goes as planned, the shortcut could shave your ATM cash withdrawal time from 30 to 40 seconds down to single digits and make it well-nigh impossible for ID thieves to swipe your account information.

App lets your smartphone dial for dollars at ATMs

Here’s how Cardless Cash Access works: As you approach an ATM, instead of digging for your plastic, you simply open the app on your smart phone, select the account and enter the amount. You can pre-order cash up to 24 hours in advance via the app. When your turn in the ATM line comes, you simply scan the QR code on its screen so it knows you’re present and pluck your cash from the dispenser. An e-receipt will be sent to your phone automatically.

There are numerous advantages to removing the physical bank card from an ATM cash transaction. No more card skimming with compromised or unauthorized mag stripe readers. No more number and PIN stealing from sneaky overhead TV cameras. No more physical or data theft from some creep in line behind you. FIS even stores all of its Cardless Cash Access data in the cloud, where it can’t be accessed without your input in the event your phone gets lost or stolen.

Like most killer apps, Cardless Cash Access has one Achilles heel: cellular phone reception. Try to pre-order cash with no bars or pick up your bills in a signal-scrambling storm and you just might have to go old-school at the ATM. But FIS says they’re already hard at work devising an offline workaround that will take smart phone orders even when signals get spotty.

Cardless Cash Access might be termed one small step for phone-based banking, one giant leap for ATM kind, which has been struggling lately to keep up with mobile banking whiz bang in an increasingly cashless society.

And while FIS hopes to use its cardless QR solution to unshackle and speed up other legacy payment systems, from pay at the pump to the restaurant bill mambo, there remains no better way to start a cattle drive of consumer interest than to produce cash out of thin air.

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