Wells Fargo says all its ATMs soon will take smartphone codes, not just cards

 

Wells Fargo plans to upgrade all 13,000 of its ATMs next week to enable customers to access their funds using their cellphones instead of traditional bank cards.

The announcement was made by Wells Fargo & Co. Chief Executive Tim Sloan on Tuesday at an employee town hall in Orlando.

 

Although banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have announced similar upgrades to their ATMs, those are still only in certain markets, such as San Francisco, Miami and New York. Wells Fargo would be the first to upgrade all its ATMs with the feature nationwide.

To access their money, customers would get unique eight-digit codes from their Wells Fargo smartphone app, and enter the code into the ATM along with their PIN. The machines will still accept debit cards as well.

“Whether a customer happens to have a card on them or not, [the upgrade] provides another simple and secure way to withdraw cash at any of our ATMs,” said Adam Vancini, head of virtual channel operations at Wells Fargo.

One limitation of the one-time code, though, is that it won’t work on the secure doors at many branches that require a customer to swipe an ATM or debit card to gain access to ATMs during non-business hours. Wells Fargo said those secure doors are found at a small percentage of branches, mostly in major metropolitan areas.

The announcement comes as Wells Fargo is looking for ways to woo back the customers it alienated after the San Francisco-based bank admitted that employees opened as many as 2 million checking and credit card accounts for their customers without those customers’ knowledge or consent. The bank said Monday that activity at its branches remains depressed. It said that customers opened 40% fewer checking accounts per day last month than a year earlier, and that the number of customer interactions with branch bankers per day was down 17%.

Wells Fargo said it plans to roll out another upgrade to its ATMs later this year that will enable customers to access the ATMs by holding their smartphones up to a reader on the machine, instead of entering the eight-digit code. It would be similar to using Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, the bank said.

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