ATM Locations in Decline


A woman inserts a credit card into an ATM | Image by Jub-Job/Shutterstock

The rise of electronic payments and cashless transactions, along with increasing crime near ATM locations, has led to a decline in the number of ATMs in the U.S.

According to a Federal Reserve report, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a decrease in cash transactions, which have struggled to bounce back in a post-COVID environment.

In 2019, the number of ATMs in the United States hit a peak of 470,000 but has steadily declined since, dropping to 451,500 by the end of 2022, according to Euromonitor International, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

“There was that scare that the virus was transmitted by paper, plus the trend of just buying everything online,” Kendrick Sands, a consumer finance research manager for Euromonitor International, told the WSJ. “That dealt almost a death blow to cash, especially for younger people.”

Euromonitor International forecast that cash and checks will make up just 14% of total payments in 2023, down from 42% in 2010, the WSJ reported.

The trend of consumers looking to gain rewards by using their credit cards instead of cash is also rising.

“I need those points for hotels!” Zach Alan, a 64-year-old retiree, told the WSJ.

The proliferation of mobile payment apps, such as Venmo and Cash App, is further pushing ATMs by the wayside. These apps have become the norm among friends for easily splitting bills and reimbursing one other, the outlet reported.

During Block Inc.’s (formerly Square Inc.) fourth-quarter earnings call in February, Cash App was reportedly mentioned 82 times.

Additionally, a study from the Federal Reserve found that digital transactions between individuals increased by 12.4% from Q1 2020 to Q2. It also found that first-time digital payment users increased by 18% over the same period.

Still, the ATM Industry Association does not appear convinced that cash is becoming obsolete.

“It is still the payment method of choice for in-person transactions of $25 or less,” said David Tente, executive director at the ATM Industry Association, speaking with WSJ.

Some banking customers still rely on the automated teller machines because of the nature of their work, and the decline in ATMs makes it harder to transact business, especially for those who work outside the usual “bankers’ hours.”

“Those cash tips have to get in our account somehow, and ATMs are usually how we do it,” hotel bartender A.J. Barbosa told the WSJ.

However, street crime is also playing a role in the dwindling number of ATMs.

“Right now the biggest threat to the industry is not electronic payments, but ATM crime,” Tente said, according to the WSJ.

Reports of ATM thefts and vandalism have been prolific in recent years, even in Texas.

Last week, three people attempted to pull an ATM out of the drive-through at a Chase bank in San Antonio, but the heist was unsuccessful, according to KSAT.

In January, two Houston men were sentenced after using chains to rip two ATMs from the ground last year, making off with $138,000 in cash and causing $60,000 in damages, according to Click2Houston.

Additionally, thieves used a pickup truck last October to pull an ATM out the shattered window of a 7-11 in Dallas, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.

Despite the competition and liabilities the ATM industry faces, the machines still have an essential lifeline.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman, Julia Tunis Bernard, told WSJ:

“Our customers are increasingly using digital channels and transacting less often at ATMs and in branches. At the same time, cash withdrawal amounts have increased over the last several years, indicating cash remains popular among customers.”

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