Here’s Why Wells Fargo Just Introduced Cardless ATMs (It’s Actually a Really Smart Reason)

ATM skimming
Chuck Burton/AP Photo

ATM skimmers may have to find a new hobby.

With the rise in funds being stolen from innocent consumers due to ATM skimming, major banks around the country are developing innovative ways to protect their customers.

While most of these new technologies are still being piloted, one major banking chain recently announced that all of its ATMs will now be better equipped to protect its customers from having their debit card information stolen.

Wells Fargo Introduces Cardless ATMs

In an effort to protect customers against ATM skimming, Wells Fargo has announced it will begin implementing card-free access to its ATMs.

Starting on March 27, all 13,000 Wells Fargo ATMs in the U.S. will be accessible via an eight-digit code in addition to PIN numbers. Customers will be given the unique code via the Wells Fargo mobile banking app, giving them access to their funds and enabling them to make cash withdrawals without a debit card.

The machines will still accept debit cards. However, the move toward eliminating them completely is in the works; the large banking chain hopes to eventually grant customers access to ATMs by holding their smartphones up to the machine instead of entering a code.

After last year’s ugly scandal that involved creating unauthorized accounts for customers, checking account openings have fallen 43%. The rollout of the new cardless technology is being seen as an attempt by the company to amend ties with both its current — and potential — customers.

How to Protect Yourself From ATM Skimming

Skimming is a booming business for thieves all around the world; from 2014 to 2015, the number of ATMs compromised by skimming practices increased 546%, according to the FICO Card Alert Service.

How it works: Hidden electronics gather information from PIN keypads or your debit card. While skimming can occur anywhere you swipe your card, 94% of security breaches stem from ATMs.

To protect yourself against compromised ATMs, here are a few warning signs:

  • Odd appearance, such as mismatched colors or graphics on the screen not being correctly aligned
  • Loose card readers, as they can be a sign that thieves placed a fake box over the original card slot in an attempt to record account and pin numbers
  • A lack of flashing lights on card readers means that a skim device may have been placed on top of the original card reader slot

For more information on how to protect yourself from ATM skimming, check out our article here.

Your Turn: What do you think about Wells Fargo’s new method of accessing ATMs?

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder and a senior at The University of Tampa. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.