Will your phone replace an ATM card?
Posted: 4 pm ET
BMO Harris Bank this week rolled out its Mobile Cash feature at 750 ATMs, which will allow consumers to withdraw money from their accounts using a smartphone in lieu of swiping an ATM card and entering a personal identification number, or PIN.
Why should you care?
BMO Harris, with branches in eight states, says its cardless cash ATMs will speed up the process of withdrawing money and help prevent theft. Expect to see more banks roll out this technology.
By removing ATM cards (or debit cards) from the equation, the bank believes it can help reduce skimming. Slide your card into a skimmer, a hard-to-detect device thieves can attach to an ATM, and it will read the account information stored electronically on the magnetic stripe; in some cases it (or an attached camera) can record your PIN as you punch it in on the ATM keypad. That's all a fraudster needs to get access to your account -- and your money.
The rest of the story
The Chicago-based bank unveiled the feature Monday and expects to add the capability to an additional 150 ATMs by this summer. Mobile Cash-capable ATMs are available in all markets the bank serves, says Doug Peacock, vice president and mobile banking lead for BMO Harris.
BMO Harris has more than 600 branches and about 1,300 ATMs in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Here's how the service works: If you're a customer, you first must download the BMO Harris mobile banking app, available for iOS and Android smartphones. Once you enter your login credentials, you would
then enter the withdrawal amount. At the ATM, touch the Mobile Cash option on the ATM screen, prompting a QR code to appear. Holding the phone close to the screen, scan the code, authenticating the transaction.
And out pops the requested money.
Peacock says this will reduce the time customers are at the ATM from as long as a minute to as little as 15 seconds.
While Peacock says "speed is the primary benefit that comes top of mind to consumers," getting cash from an ATM in this manner makes the transaction far more secure. A thief would need both your smartphone (you must register your device when you sign up) and the banking app password to gain access to your account.
"The reality is because ATM cards and PINs are fairly old technology…criminals have found ways using skimming devices and small cameras to unfortunately compromise cards," Peacock says. "This effectively defeats that type of fraud."
And if your phone is lost or stolen, there's not much of value to steal when it comes to your banking data. The app stores no personal information like a card number or security code.
More banks to come?
To date, BMO Harris says it has the largest network of cardless ATMs in the country. In December, Wintrust Financial, the holding company for 15 Chicago-area banks, announced it was enabling smartphone-based withdrawals, as well. Peacock thinks others will follow.
"Other institutions recognize that the smartphone is a valuable part of the relationship with the customers," he says.
Still, don't expect the smartphone to replace the traditional ATM card just yet. This authentication method will remain voluntary for the foreseeable future.