Glenda Kwek June 15, 2012
Cardless ATMs ... launched in Britain. Photo: RBS screengrab
Australian banks are investigating the possibility of operating cardless ATMs after British banks unveiled a mobile app that allows their customers to withdraw money without a card.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest* unveiled a mobile phone app called "GetCash" that allows users to request up to £100 ($155) by entering a six-digit code generated through the smartphone into the ATM, the BBC reported.
The banks said the app meant people could leave their wallets at home, or withdraw cash if their cards were lost or forgotten.
"You could send that code as a text to anyone, and they could go to any RBS group cash machine, input it and get themselves out of trouble," a spokesman told The Guardian.
RBS and NatWest's head of mobile, Ben Green, said the system was "simple and secure". A password would be needed to access the app, the withdrawal code would only be revealed when the user taps the screen and the people withdrawing the cash would not be able to take out more or less than the amount specified, the banks said.
The codes would be valid for three hours and would not reveal information about the sender's bank account, they added.
A Westpac spokesman said the bank was closely following the innovations and looking at similar initiatives, such as using an SMS to access ATMs.
A NAB spokeswoman said mobile internet banking made up one-third of the bank's online log-ins - and its fastest growing banking platform.
"Contactless transacting is the next logical step and NAB is actively working towards a future where our customers will be able to use their mobile phone as a wallet," the spokeswoman said.
A Commonwealth Bank spokeswoman added that, while it had no plans to launch a similar emergency cash app, it offers a "Kaching" app that allows customers to make mobile payments.
Contactless ATMs have already started to appear in Europe. The ATMs allow people to wave their cards across the machine's reader instead of inserting them, saving queueing times.
Contactless payments, where customers pay for a product by waving their card in front of a scanner, already exist in Australia through retailers such as Coles and Woolworths.
Last month, MasterCard announced its digital wallet service PayPass, which allows customers to make payments through tapping their mobile phones on a store's scanner and paying for items via a "PayPass button" on your smartphone.
*NatWest is a member of the RBS Group.