It was in 2002 when Wells Fargo Banks rolled out the first models of image-scanning, envelope-free ATMs. For Bank of America, 2006 was when it started to offer this service. JP Morgan Chase is also currently in the process of installing these cutting-edge technology ATMs, as are some smaller banks such as the Westbound Bank, an 18-month old Houston-based bank.

Both huge and small banks are gearing up to offer this value added service to their clients, and give their bottom lines a boost as well. But how exactly do these new ATMs make banking operations a lot easier for both clients and banks?

This relatively new ATM technology does away with the need to stuff cash and check deposits into an envelope first before inserting this into the machine. Instead, the ATM scans the check or the cash bill and produces a printed image of it, which then serves as the deposit receipt.

Aside from the convenience of the whole process, there are other distinct advantages too. First, a check deposit is credited immediately to the depositor’s account even before the physical check is retrieved from the machine. This system also allows the banks to extend the cut off-time for check deposits from 6 pm to 8 pm. Moreover, cash deposits are immediately available instead of (again) waiting for a bank teller to verify the deposit and enter this into the terminal.

On the business side, research has shown that deposits made at envelope-free ATMs brings down the cost of the transaction to just 40 cents, as compared to the $1.70 cost at conventional, old-model ATMs, and $1.40 for deposits made inside the branch.

When these ATMs first started to operate however, depositors had mixed reactions. The main drawbacks at that time were that the transaction process took too slow and some of the ATMs first had trouble scanning certain bills and checks. For Bank of America ATMs in particular, check deposits had to be inserted one at a time, making the process tedious for those who had multiple checks to deposit.

Notwithstanding these technical difficulties, BofA ( Bank of America) reveals that since the integration of this technology, ATM deposits have grown by about 50%. Just very recently, BofA depositors also got another welcome enhancement to the envelope-free deposits: the ATM deposit images can now be viewed online. That means even if you lose your copy of the printed deposited receipt, or if you are perhaps poor in organizing and keeping these records, there is still documentation of these transactions and check deposits which can be accessed online.

Wells Fargo currently has 1,450 of these new ATMs up and running, with plans of adding new features to these. At the same time, Bank of America’s long-term plans are to have its 13,500 deposit-taking ATMs eventually shifted to image-reading units. BofA has about 1,000 units currently being converted. JP Morgan Chase is also on the same path, investing in more than a hundred envelope-free ATMs, and particularly the type which can handle multicheck deposits.

Bank customers can either love it or hate it, ignore it or make it work for them. One thing’s for sure though; with the emphasis now on more efficient and cost-effective banking services, image-scanning, envelope-free ATM technology is here to stay.

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