Do you leave your ATM card in the ATM?


At least five times it's happened to me: I go to an automated teller machine (ATM) to get cash. I leave with the cash, but without my ATM card.

Now, I'm not the kind of person who goes around making excuses for myself or blaming other people. I know my actions have consequences, and that I'm accountable for them. Forgetting my card means calling the bank, canceling that card and waiting for a new one, and I understand the need for these steps. However, I've noticed an annoying design feature of these ATMs, and believe a simple change could reduce the incidence of forgotten ATM cards, both be me and by others.

The ATMs at which I've left my card invariably have the following procedures with respect to the customer:

- insert card completely into ATM

- enter personal identification number (PIN)

- select "withdraw cash"

- select amount

- take cash

- remove card

I forget my card because I'm so intent on getting money (usually when I'm in a hurry) that I once I get the money, I forget about the card.

So, what changes can be made to the ATM to reduce the chances of abandoned cards? For one thing, the entire machine could be replaced by one which doesn't require complete insertion of the ATM card. The new machine would require only that the card be "swiped," not entered. Of course, replacing existing machines with the new ones would be expensive.

As an alternative, what about simply reprogramming the ATM? In particular, what about reversing the last two steps? That is, force the customer to remove the card BEFORE the machine dispenses the cash. This switch reduces the chances that the customer leaves without the card.

"But wait," you say, "what about the customer who has more than one transaction? That person is inconvenienced by having to re-insert the card." I recognize that point and that concern. However, I believe that an analysis of ATM activity would reveal that the majority of ATM interactions involve only a single transaction, and that that single transaction is a withdrawal.

If my assumption is true, then yes, some people would be inconvenienced. However, the bank needs to balance that small inconvenience with the huge savings and benefits from non-upset customers, lower material and postage costs (from the replacement cards) and most importantly, greater productivity for the call center staff (by fielding fewer calls regarding lost cards).

Even though your job might be in support rather than in development, this type of thinking still is critical. The better your system is designed, in considering the customer's point of view, the fewer support calls you will have to take.