What is an atm?

What is an Automated Teller Machine (ATM)?
ATM stands for Automated Teller Machine. It’s a specialized computer that makes it convenient to manage your money. For example, almost all ATMs allow you to withdraw money, and many allow you to make deposits. At some ATMs, you can print a statement (a record of your account activity or transactions); check your account balances (the amount of money in your accounts right now); transfer money between your accounts; and even purchase stamps. You can usually access the most services at an ATM that’s operated by your own bank.

Why use ATMs?
ATMs are a safe and convenient way to manage your money. There are millions of ATMs worldwide and you can use many ATMs 24 hours a day, 7 days week. Some allow you to select the language you want to use.

Is there a fee for using an ATM?
Check with your bank to see if they charge any ATM fees to customers. Usually there isn’t a fee to use one of your banks ATMs but almost all banks do charge a fee to non-customers who use their ATMs. Keep in mind that even though using an ATM may cost you money, it’s typically less expensive than using a check cashing service.

How do you use an ATM?
To operate an ATM, you insert an ATM or debit card and enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Your PIN is a secret password that you create.

Then, follow the onscreen directions and select the banking service you require (deposit, withdrawal, transfer funds, etc.).

blue dollar bills

atm and debit cards

Request an ATM card/debit card.
When you open a saving or checking account, your bank will probably offer you the opportunity to apply for at ATM card and/or a debit card.

If your ATM card is ever lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately.

Create a PIN.
To use your card at the ATM, you must enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN), a secret combination of numbers or letters that you create. Your PIN is like a secret password. If someone else has it, they can take money out of your account — so don’t share it with anyone. If you do give it out, you may be held responsible for any money you lose. So to keep your money safe, keep your PIN a secret.

atm keypad

Stay alert and aware.
Because most ATMs give out cash and many accept deposits, it makes sense to be alert and aware of your surroundings every time you use an ATM.

Follow onscreen directions.
Not all ATMs work exactly the same way, but they’re all designed to be easy to use. Just follow the directions on the ATM screen that you’re using.

Be aware of fees.
Your ATM card will work in machines operated by your own bank. It may also work in ATMs operated by other financial institutions. This flexibility is great, but be careful about fees you may be charged by both your bank and the ATM owner.

Know your available balance.
Be sure you have enough money to cover your ATM withdrawals and checks. Remember that whenever you make a withdrawal with your ATM or debit card, the money will be withdrawn from your checking account. Also, when you write a check it may take several days for the funds to be withdrawn from your account or it may be processed that day.

Also remember that when you deposit a check, the funds may not be available for immediate use, depending on the bank’s funds availability policy.

Record your transactions.
Make a habit of keeping track of all your banking transactions. Consider writing your ATM transactions and the purchases you’ve made with your ATM card or debit card in your register right away so that you don’t forget. On a monthly basis, compare the amounts on your receipts to those on your bank statement to ensure that they match.

Both ATM and debit cards are safe, convenient ways to get cash, make deposits, transfer funds, and make purchases.

atm security tips

Because most ATMs give out cash and many accept deposits, it makes sense to be alert and aware of your surroundings whenever you use an ATM. Here are some personal safety tips when using an ATM:

  • Avoid using an ATM in out-of-the-way or deserted areas. Use ATMs located inside banks or supermarkets where other people are around. Use ATMs in well-lit, public areas.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing funds. If your notice anything out of the ordinary, come back later or use another ATM.
  • If it looks like someone has tampered with the ATM equipment, don’t use it. (This could mean that a criminal has attached a “skimmer” to the ATM to steal your financial information.) If a suspicious person offers to help you use the ATM, refuse and leave.
  • When typing in your pin, cover the keypad so others can’t see.
  • After completing your transaction, remember to remove your card, cash and any printed documents such as receipts or statements.
  • Put your money and ATM card away before you leave the ATM. Always avoid showing your cash. Always verify that the amount you withdrew or deposited matches the amount printed on your receipt.
  • Take your receipts with you so potential criminals will not know how much you withdrew or how much money is in your account.
  • When using a drive-up ATM, keep your car doors locked and your engine running.

Here are some additional tips for taking care of your ATM card, PIN, and receipts:

  • Report a lost or stolen ATM card immediately to the financial institution that issued you the card.
  • Don’t leave your card in your car.
  • Don’t lend your cards — credit, debit, or ATM — to anyone. You are responsible for their use. Don’t let your cards be used by others, even family and friends.
  • Choose a PIN that is easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. Don’t use any numbers or words that appear in your wallet (name, birth date, phone number, etc.)
  • Never write down your personal identification number (PIN) — memorize it. If your wallet or purse is stolen, someone else could have access to your money.
  • Never tell anyone your PIN. No one from a financial institution, the police, or a merchant should ask for your PIN. You are the only person who needs to know it.
  • When selecting a PIN, avoid picking a number that is easy for others to guess — for example, your name, telephone number, date of birth, or any simple combination of these.
  • Always keep copies of your ATM receipts. Record your transactions in your transaction register. Compare your receipts and register to your monthly account statement. Then shred or destroy your ATM receipts before you throw them away.
  • If you receive a replacement card, destroy your old card. Destroy cards for cancelled accounts.

what’s on a card?

Explore the differences between ATM cards and debit cards.

ATM Cards

orange credit card icon

An ATM card is a PIN-based card. That means that in addition to using it at ATMs, you may also be able to use it to make purchases (by entering your Personal Identification Number) if the merchant is using one of the same electronic ATM networks that’s listed on the back of your card.

Debit Cards

gray debit card icon

A debit card looks just like a regular ATM card, and you can use it at ATMs. When you make a purchase or other transaction, the funds come out of your checking account. The difference is that a debit card has a Visa® or Mastercard® logo on its face. That means you can use a debit card wherever Visa® or Mastercard® debit cards are accepted, for example, department stores, restaurants, or online.

The front of a debit card includes:

The debit card number. This 16-digit number is unique to your card. It is different from your checking account number.

The expiration date. Your card can only be used until this date. A new card will be automatically sent to your address prior to the expiration date.

Visa® or Mastercard® logo. This symbol means that you can use this card wherever Visa® or Mastercard® debit cards are accepted, for example, department stores, restaurants, and online.

The back of a debit card includes:

Customer service number. Call this toll-free number when you have questions about your account.

Signature bar. For your protection against fraud, be sure to sign here as soon as receive your card.

Card verification value (CVV). This number is unique to your card. When you use your card to make purchases over the phone or Internet, some merchants may require you to supply this number to confirm that you have the card with you.

Network logos. The logos that appear on your card indicate where it can be used. You can access any ATM that carries the same logos as your card, make PIN-based purchases at merchants that display the same Point-of-Sale network, and make signature-based purchases at merchants that accept Visa or MasterCard debit cards.

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