Taking ATMs to the next level with card-free access
Wells Fargo now allows customers to use any of its ATMs by entering a one-time access code obtained from the bank’s smartphone app.
With a hundred things on her mind, Tamika Powell rushed out of the house for work — only to realize later that her gas tank was near empty and her wallet was at home.
It’s a good thing she had her smartphone. After just a few taps on her device, Powell received a one-time access code for a nearby ATM where she could get cash. The new mobile banking feature by Wells Fargo allowed her to access the gas money she needed, no ATM or debit card necessary.1
“It was an absolute life saver,” said Powell, a Wells Fargo customer service representative in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I only needed to go through a few steps on my phone to get the code. Once I entered the code and my PIN at the ATM, I was able to do any transaction that my debit card would let me do.”
Wells Fargo introduced the card-free technology across the U.S. on March 25, making it the first large bank in the U.S. to offer the feature for its entire network of 13,000 ATMs, said Jonathan Velline, head of branch and ATM banking for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. It gives added convenience to mobile users, while still providing the familiar and traditional ATM card service, he said.
Later this year, Wells Fargo plans to introduce near-field communication (NFC) technology to many of its ATMs, allowing customers to access the ATM using their mobile wallet. NFC technology allows electronic devices to talk to each other wirelessly within a few inches of each other.
“We’re doing this because we want our customers to have options,” Velline said. “An increasing number of our customers are using mobile first, because it’s convenient. But we recognize that some customers still aren’t super comfortable with using a phone to get cash and would rather just stick with their tried-and-true card.”
Customers like Powell, who participated in a pilot in late 2016, have provided invaluable feedback about the card-free ATM, said Adam Vancini, head of operations for Wells Fargo Virtual Channels. He said his own experience using the feature was seamless and positive.
“Aside from it being a cool experience, it has huge practical benefit,” Vancini said. “Now, if I happen to leave my wallet at home, it’s okay because as long as I have my phone, I have another way to access my account and withdraw cash. That brings me some peace of mind, and I hope that’s what our customers will feel, as well.”
With its latest entry in digital banking, Wells Fargo is well positioned to serve the growing number of customers who have gone mobile with many aspects of their lives — including their banking, according to Peter Wannemacher, a senior analyst for Forester, a leading technology and market research company.
“Wells Fargo, for example, already has a good mobile app — and the company is now being proactive by rolling out cardless ATM access and other next-generation features,” he said in a recent blogpost. “There are many scenarios and mobile moments where cardless ATM transactions will prove their worth in convenience and value to customers.”
Velline said the card-free ATM technology broadens the company’s omnichannel approach, providing financial services through mobile, desktop, bricks-and-mortar branches, and other channels.
“Our signature omnichannel strategy is to give customers the ability to move seamlessly within and between different channels,” he said. “We understand the real power of mobile in its ability to enhance all of our other channels — in this case, the ATM.”
For Powell, the smartphone-based ATM access code was an instant hit — one that she will keep in mind for those occasions when she might be without her debit card.
“It took only a few seconds to use,” she said. “Since I’ve had the experience now, I can help our customers by answering their questions and easing any stress they might have about trying something new.”
 The entire fleet of Wells Fargo ATMs has One-Time Access Code technology. Note that some ATMs are located within secure locations that may require customers to swipe their cards for entry.