The multitasker ATMs

The multitasker ATMs

When HSBC Ltd installed India’s first automated teller machine (ATM) in 1987, who would have thought that in times to come, the machine would practically do away with the need to visit the bank branch. ATMs have silently evolved into one-stop shops for most banking transactions. As per the Reserve Bank of India’s report, ‘Trends and Progress in Banking’, there were 96,188 ATMs in the country as on March 2010. While this number is steadily increasing, so are the services offered.

The basic facilities that ATMs offer are pretty much known. You can withdraw and deposit cash, get account maintenance services such as placing a request for a cheque book, and get basic account information such as the balance left and a mini account statement. But there is much more to ATMs.

Here’s a quick guide on what else ATMs offer. The good part is most of these services come free of cost. While each of these services may not be on offer by all banks as of now, it may not be long before they are common to all banks. So next time you visit an ATM, look at the ATM screen properly to check out what all you can do there.

You can buy

Mobile top-up: Can’t find a telecom company’s vendor to get your prepaid card recharged, just step into an ATM instead. Many banks, such as ING Vysya Bank Ltd and Axis Bank Ltd, offer this service. Some banks allow you to get a recharge for any service provider. Says Sonalee Panda, product head (retail), ING Vysya Bank, “ We offer top-up facility at our ATMs. Since fundamentally the ATM/debit card uses the same switch as Master and Visa cards, the customer can buy a top-up across all telecom companies."

The top-up amount gets directly debited from your savings account.

Fixed Deposits (FDs): Your funds may be lying idle because you are not finding the time to visit your branch and make an FD. But if you are an ICICI Bank Ltd savings account holder and an Indian resident, you can do so at an ATM for tenors of 390, 590 and 990 days. It will be created within three working days and you will get a receipt at your address through post.

The FD amount can be anything between 10,000 and 49,999. You can open multiple FDs. You can make premature withdrawals from this FD but at a cost.

Mutual Funds (MF): Though not many banks are offering this service, it has become a reality. Axis Bank lets you purchase as well as redeem units of any UTI Mutual Fund scheme. This saves the trouble of filling up forms and signing off cheques every time you sell or buy MF units. You need to register for this service to avail it.

Unique offerings

Funds transfer via ATM: While most banks’ ATMs let you transfer funds from one account to another one with the same banks, a few allow transfer of funds even to a third-party account registered through your Internet banking.

Funds transfer via kiosk: There are kiosks at some ATM centres that offer services, which a regular ATM doesn’t. Suresh Sethi, group president (transaction banking), Yes Bank, says, “At the kiosk located at our ATM centres, customers can transfer their funds via Neft (National Electronic Funds Transfer) and RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) modes using their Internet banking option."

Denomination of notes: While withdrawing funds, you can’t choose the denomination of notes at most ATMs. IndusInd Bank Ltd offers a service that allows you to do so. Says Ritesh Saxena, senior vice-president and head, personal accounts and direct banking, IndusInd Bank, “Our customers can choose currency notes in the denomination of 100, 500 and 1,000 and in any permutation and combination. Going forward, we may launch the option of withdrawing 50 depending on customers’ response."

There are many more facilities that ATMs offer, including requesting a demand draft or making donations to select charities.

You can pay

Bill payments: The next time you visit an ATM to withdraw money, you can use the opportunity to settle your utility bills, too. Says Murali Mohan, general manager (alternate channels), IDBI Bank Ltd, “You can pay utility bills, such as electricity, cellphone and credit card bills of other banks, at our ATMs."

Some banks such as HDFC Bank Ltd even give you a discount if you use the bill pay facility at ATMs. For instance, if you pay your Reliance Energy electricity bill via an ATM, you get 0.5% discount on the bill amount; the maximum discount can be 250 per bill.

Many banks allow you to save on your credit card bill if the payment goes through an ATM. For instance, ICICI Bank’s credit card bill can be paid at an ATM without any extra charges, but pay the same at the bank’s branch and you will have to pay a fee of 100.

Insurance premium: You can even pay your insurance premiums—monthly, quarterly or annually—at your nearest ATM. However, it will depend on your bank’s policy. Some banks, such as Corporation Bank Ltd, allow you to pay only life insurance premiums, while others extend this facility only if the insurance company is their own group’s company. Few banks allow you to pay the premiums for others through your own account. You need to register for this service.

Tax payment: Some banks let you pay your income-tax at the machine. You need to make a one-time registration with the bank branch and complete the required documentation to get this facility. Corporation Bank and Axis Bank offer this facility. You can make repeat payments with a single registration. You get a thermal paper slip as well as an email counter receipt for the payment you make.

The road ahead

Assuming that the machine would stop at all this would be foolhardy. Don’t forget that it started as just a cash withdrawal and deposit machine.

Saxena says, “Going forward kiosks at ATM centres will offer many more services. Like you could book railway tickets at a kiosk, and you could even get location specific discounts. Let’s say you are at an ATM located near McDonalds, your ATM slip may come with a discount offer for McDonalds."

Kiosks will help you take monthly statement printouts and you would be able to update your passbooks at ATM centres itself. ATM centres are also set to have live chat and video conferencing facilities.

In fact, IndusInd Bank will soon launch the facility wherein you would be able to withdraw cash at an ATM without a debit card in case of an emergency.