Tech of the Week #11: Contactless cash withdrawals using an ATM and NFC

We use our mobile phones for a lot of things nowadays, from keeping up with social media to projecting augmented reality. In recent years, we’ve also started using them to pay for our groceries at the shop. Yes, it could be argued that our mobile phone is becoming the most important item we own – promoting itself from a mere gadget to our personal accessory. You could even say it’s becoming more important than our wallet. Especially now you can make contactless cash withdrawals


Where are contactless cash withdrawals available?

Whilst perhaps not a totally new idea, it’s not one I’d heard of until now and it’s certainly becoming a more common practice with banks. US finance giant Chase bank is now offering the ability to withdraw cash with just your mobile phone at nearly all (15,000) of its 16,000 ATMs.

For those in the UK with a Barclays account, you can make contactless cash withdrawals.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) has you covered if you’re in Oceania. Interestingly, ANZ offers a “Tap & Pin” service, too. Instead of inserting your card into the machine, as you usually would, you simply tap your contactless card and enter your pin.


How does it work?

Barclays, which we’re looking at in this example, uses your Android mobile phone. On your Android phone, at least with Barclays, you’ll need the mobile banking app which has had mobile banking set up on. You then turn on a feature called “Contactless Mobile” and you’re good to go. By using Near-Field Communication (NFC), which is available on most, if not all, modern smartphones, the app interacts with the touch point on the ATM. At this stage, you enter your pin into the ATM as usual and proceed to all of the options you’d have with your bank card, including contactless cash withdrawals.

Chase offers the contactless feature across Apple and Android devices through their respective “smart wallets”, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

ANZ offers the feature if the user has an Android phone with the app ANZ Mobile Pay installed.

It’s important to note that transactions carried out in this way, i.e. to withdraw cash, are not restricted by the usual contactless payment amounts (which is up to £30 in a single transaction in the UK).

It appears that the reason bank app native contactless withdrawals aren’t noted to work on Apple devices is because, whilst they do have NFC capabilities built in, they can’t be used to read NFC tags without a third party app.


The benefits

Time aside, the main benefit will be the avoidance of having your bank card being cloned by tampered ATMs. These smart ATMs provide fully encrypted transactions to help protect your assets. It’s also backed up by a money back guarantee, should something go wrong.

The other main benefit is the lack of bank card needed to withdraw money. Say you’ve left your wallet at home but need cash to pay something important that just can’t wait, well now you can. If you don’t feel like taking your wallet out on a night out for fear of it being stolen or just getting in the way, now you don’t have to.

The cons

NFC has been repeatedly given bad press in the past for its ability to be hacked into. We’ve all heard the stories of someone “bumping into” someone else and transferring money from the unsuspecting member’s bank to the attacker.

NFC has a usable range of about 10cm (4 inches), so whilst the above scenario was, and likely still is a possible threat, it wouldn’t be as big a threat with withdrawing cash.

If you were stood at the ATM, you would soon notice someone coming that close to interact with your device in a harmful way. Like with everything, there’s still a possibility, but not a large one. With banks offering a money back guarantee, it’s a largely safe procedure to work with.

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