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Cardless ATM Withdrawal: What It Is and How It Works | SoFi

By Sheryl Nance-Nash · September 18, 2022 · 9 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Cardless ATM Withdrawal: What It Is and How It Works | SoFi

It may sound like a scene out of a scifi movie, but withdrawing cash from an ATM — without using a card — is becoming an increasingly common service.

Just as cell phones have infiltrated so many aspects of our lives, so too are they revolutionizing the way we bank. Now, you can get your hands on a stack of $20s without even inserting that rectangle of plastic. But these innovations to our daily lives can require some getting used to…and can trigger questions.

To help fill you in on how this process works, we’ll go through some key points, such as:

•   What cardless withdrawals are and how they work

•   The pros of cardless withdrawals

•   The cons on cardless withdrawals

Now, let’s dive in and learn how these no-card-needed transactions work.

What Is a Cardless ATM?

A cardless ATM allows you to withdraw cash without using a debit card. You can do the same things you can with a card, like get cash and find out your account balance. In other words, the cardless-ness is an additional feature to a traditional ATM. Cardless ATMs are not a whole new, separate kind of device. It will look and operate the same as usual.

What Is a Cardless Withdrawal?

Thanks to technology, you can withdraw money from an ATM without a debit card and instead use your cell phone. This is good news for plenty of folks who don’t like fumbling for their card or simply prefer the convenience this tech advance can bring.

Cardless withdrawals can allow you to use an app to get your moolah rather than having to find, insert, and then put away your card. Different kinds of technologies (QR codes, NFC, biometrics) may play a role in the transaction. Let’s take a closer look at how exactly this works (don’t worry; we’ll use layperson terms and make it simple) so you can try out or at least be knowledgeable about this new advance in financial access.

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How a Cardless ATM Withdrawal Works

How to do a cardless withdrawal? Glad you asked. First things first: You’ll need an ATM that has cardless access. Now, here are some different angles on cardless withdrawals.

Withdrawals With a Cardless ATM App

With your phone, you initiate a withdrawal using your bank’s mobile app. There’s variation in how these apps work: The bank may send you a code to plug into the ATM or one that you can scan on the ATM. When using the ATM, you press the cardless ATM acceptance mark and enter a code or scan the QR code on the ATM screen.

A quick note about QR (or Quick Response) codes. They have been around for a while, but many of us don’t fully understand how they work. Here’s a crash course in QR codes:

•   They may also be called matrix barcodes.

•   They encode information from left to right and from top to bottom.

•   QR codes hold more data and can encode various types of data because they are encoded in two different directions at once, unlike standard barcodes.

Now, back to how cardless withdrawals work. Once you scan the QR code, you’ll see if any fees are associated with the transaction. Then, you can accept and authenticate the transaction (which may involve using your phone’s biometrics, which are typically, fingerprints, voice recognition, iris scanning, and/or face recognition). Of course, declining and canceling the transaction is a possibility as well. If you move ahead, the ATM receives authorization of the transaction and spits out the cash you requested. No card anywhere in sight!

Another option is to use a contactless payment or digital wallet option like Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or Apple Pay. If you use one of these payment providers, they will likely use near-field communication (NFC). In this situation, you’ll hold your phone close to the ATM so your phone and the ATM can “talk” to each other. You’ll then be able to access the bank account linked to the app.

Scheduling a Cardless ATM Withdrawal in Advance

Many of us enjoy using apps to complete a mobile order and then have it waiting when we zip past the pickup spot. Think about how you might buy an espresso at the cafe in your office lobby while you’re commuting in to work, order a salad at lunchtime and then snag it after running an errand, or refill a prescription so it’s ready as you head home.

Guess what? Depending on your bank, you may be able to schedule a withdrawal in advance through your bank’s mobile app. You choose how much you want to take out before you get to the ATM. Once you schedule your withdrawal, you typically have 24 hours to retrieve it. It makes the whole process that much quicker.

Understanding the Cardless ATM Withdrawal Rules

You can access the same options for transactions with a cardless ATM as you would if you had a physical card, and the rules are similar. For example, if you have withdrawal limits for ATM use with a debit card, those same limits would be applicable for a cardless transaction. Always be mindful of ATM withdrawal limits. They vary at each bank, with some capping at $300 and others as high as $5,000 a day. Much depends on your banking history or account type. For example, a new customer with a basic checking account may have a lower withdrawal limit than an established customer with a premium checking account.

Pros of a Cardless Cash Withdrawal

For sure, there are some upsides to being able to conduct your business without a card in hand. While that probably holds true for deposits and withdrawals, here we’ll stay focused on the process of taking funds out of your account. Benefits to consider include:

Convenience

It’s pretty nifty to have the ability to get your cash and conduct other transactions without your debit card. As long as you have your phone, you’re good to go. No need to make a trip back to the house if you discover when you get to the bank that you left your card at home. That can be a pain, especially if you have been running around and are a good distance away. It is also smart not to have unnecessary cards with you while you are out and about. There will be less to worry about should you lose your belongings or have an unfortunate encounter with a thief. As long as you keep a good grip on your mobile phone, you’re able to get to your funds.

Simplicity and Savings

With cardless ATMs, you can have access to all your bank accounts at multiple financial institutions. Why does this matter? Say you have two different bank accounts, and the card you need for one is at home. No worries. Your phone will unlock your banking for you. Also, if the one card you have in your wallet isn’t near an in-network ATM where you are at the moment, you don’t have to incur an out-of-network ATM fee. The reason? You’ll have access to the other account that is a part of the network — thanks to your phone. And, silver-lining alert, any time you can avoid paying a fee means more money for your savings.

Less Contact

In these times when there are still concerns about COVID-19 and germs in general, not having to insert your card into an ATM is a plus. Less touching of surfaces that have seen a lot of potentially germy fingertips can be a good way to go.

Security

You may sleep easier at night because there’s no chance of card skimming because you’re not swiping your card. What’s more, you may be able to avoid entering your PIN. That’s a plus since you don’t have to worry about hidden cameras or lurkers getting your digits.

Cons of a Cardless Cash Withdrawal

We’ve just made a good case for the benefits of cardless withdrawals. But, as with most things in this world, there are pluses and minuses. Read on to understand the potential downsides of going card-free.

Accessibility

Truth is, not every ATM has cardless capabilities, and your bank may not have cardless ATMs that are convenient to where you live or work. Before you decide to go the cardless route, investigate what your financial institution offers in terms of ATMs that are near your usual routes. Also, if you’re a road warrior and travel domestically and abroad, get a sense of how much access you will have to cardless ATMs while you are away. Cardless ATMs are no rarity, but they also aren’t everywhere.

Potential for Scams

Your phone will have sensitive information if you go the cardless route. If you lose your phone or it is stolen, that information could be at risk. But there are safeguards. Be sure that you are using all security measures, like biometric security and two-factor authentication, for example. The minute your phone is lost or stolen, contact your bank immediately. Whenever you’re banking online, understand that bank accounts can be breached in cyberspace. Crooks can change your settings. Another tip: Don’t click on emails that you are not 100% sure are from your bank. Beware of copycat and phishing messages. They can do a great job of mimicking legitimate financial institutions.

May Need a Phone Upgrade

Are you one of those people who stand in long lines for the latest, greatest smartphone release? You’re probably going to do fine with cardless withdrawals. But those of us who rely on an old-school cell phone may need an upgrade that can handle your bank’s app and NFC, when required. Otherwise, your device may not have the wherewithal to do cardless transactions.

Let’s see how the benefits and downsides stack up in one easily scanned chart:

Pros of Cardless Withdrawals

Cons of Cardless Withdrawals

ConvenienceAccessibility
Simplicity and SavingsPotential for Scams
Less ContactMay Need a Phone Upgrade
Security

The Takeaway

You’ve just faced the future of personal finance. Cardless withdrawals are surely another way technology can help simplify your finances. It’s fast, convenient, and can make everyday banking that much easier. You’ll be able to snag cash without any fiddling around with debit cards or worrying about that plastic being forgotten at home, lost, or stolen. This relatively new technology can help you avoid fees and breeze through your banking — which is exactly how technology should improve your life.

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FAQ

Do banks do cardless withdrawals?

Yes, you can use your smartphone at an ATM that offers cardless transactions to withdraw money and do other typical tasks at an ATM. The difference is, you never have to insert your debit card.

How do I use a cardless ATM?

To use a cardless ATM, you begin a withdrawal by using your bank’s mobile app. Depending on the particular app and bank network, your transaction may involve entering a PIN, scanning a QR code, and/or implementing biometrics (typically, fingerprints, voice recognition, iris scanning, and/or face recognition) to complete your transaction. Then you’ll receive your funds. If you use a payment provider like Apple Pay, which uses near-field communication (NFC), you’ll hold your phone close to the ATM and access the bank account linked to the app.

Can I withdraw money without an ATM card?

Yes, you can use your smartphone to withdraw money from an ATM without a card, provided the ATM offers cardless transactions. If it does, you can also complete any other tasks that you would do at a typical ATM.


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