New Branch Promotion Turns ATMs Into No-Lose Slot Machines

How can you spice up a routine visit to the ATM? Easthampton Savings Bank in Massachusetts is promoting a new branch by turning its ATM into a sort of no-lose slot machine. They call it the “ATM Gone Mad,” because sometimes it will dispense $50 bills in place of the normal $20 bills. Cute promo. One local blogger finds it amusing that this is going on around the same time that the nearby city of Springfield is considering a downtown casino proposal from MGM Grand. All of the fun of gambling, none of the risk of financial ruin. But what’s the fun if there’s no chance of destroying your family’s future?

This reminds us, just a little bit, of the prize-linked savings accounts available in some countries. They’re illegal in most of the United States, but here’s how they work: you put money in a savings account, and instead of (or in addition to) a puny interest rate, you get the chance to win a large cash prize. Really large: the first winner in Michigan’s “Save to Win” program was a member of the Greatest Generation who won $100,000.

It’s not do-gooders fretting about the combination of banking and gambling that have kept prize-linked savings away from consumers. It’s government-run lotteries. In South Africa, the national lottery actually got a popular savings program shut down.

Zero-Risk ATM Winnings: Are they Training Wheels for Slots? [Wig & Pen]
MGM unveils downtown Springfield casino proposal [MassLive]
Could a Lottery Be the Answer to America’s Poor Savings Rate? [Freakonomics]
Making Savers Winners: An Overview of Prize-Linked Savings Products [National Bureau of Economic Research]

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  1. Marlin says:

    Ahh whats to stop someone from just pulling out the max per day and then re-depositing the next?

    Seems the $50’s would not last long.

    • cybrczch says:

      Since only random $20s are being replaced with $50s, they can limit the amount to whatever number a day they want. So you end up with about the same odds as winning big in the casinos.

    • JollySith says:

      Why would the banks care? The additional $30.00 per bill is already a spent/budgeted promotion cost. They just sit back and rake in the ATM fees. In fact by increasing the amount of ATM trips you make the bank increases it’s profits.

      • RandomHookup says:

        If you are a customer of the bank and don’t pay for ATM withdrawals, how does this help the bank’s profits? It even hurts their cash reserves some (meaning less to lend out) if the have to keep more available for withdrawals.

        • JollySith says:

          By hidden fees.
          More than X ATM transactions per day $5.00
          Dropping below your minimum balance a $5.00 fee each time you do it

          Add in the fact that since they are just randomly placed $50’s this will also tempt non-customers to use these ATM’s (when it will be more like real gambling)

          Plus Such a tiny percentage of the banks cash reserves are real cash, that the amount in the ATM’s in a negligible percentage, which is being restocked when you redeposit the funds anyhow.
          The cash from the ATM’s doesn’t come from the bank anyhow. It comes from Brinks, or another such company that then bills the bank.

          • RandomHookup says:

            But are people going to really use the ATM that much when they start incurring fees? It’s one ATM, it’s a drive up and I doubt people will spend money to play (and there will probably be a cost if Brinks has to constantly refill the machine). I don’t see much real profit — unless the lottery suckers also have sufficient cash in this bank.

          • pegasi says:

            Not necessarily true. Banks that have atms that are located in a solid wall where the unit is inside the bank are often refilled by the bank personnel. I’m in the business as an equipment vendor….. Atms that are outside isolated in a drive up lane are the ones most likely to be refilled by armored car service.

            • Gehasst says:

              Umm, I’ve rarely seen a bank anymore with an ATM in the side of the building. Usually its an outside lane in the drive up area, to give users more area to line up inqueue. I bank at Regions (well, I’ve been banking there since Magena Bank back in the day) and every location of theirs I’ve been to in MO / IL / IN all have the far lanes for the ATM. No wall units to speak of.

        • RandomHookup says:

          Rather…

          “if they have to keep…”

  2. axhandler1 says:

    Step 1. Withdraw all of your money in sets of 20 $20 bills, hoping for $50 bills.
    Step 2: Redeposit.
    Step 3: Go back to the ATM and try again.
    Step 4: Profit!

    • PSUSkier says:

      Too bad most banks haven’t embraced instantaneous deposits, otherwise that’d be a pretty slick deal.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      I think that’s why they have the disclaimer that they can end the promo whenever they want. It’s for when someone tries this.

    • RandomLetters says:

      I would think there’s a max amount you can withdraw per day. I think I remember it being $300 at my bank but I haven’t used a ATM in a few years.

      • Sudonum says:

        On one of my accounts its $500, but I think that’s the max anywhere.

      • pegasi says:

        there is. depending on how long you’ve had an account at that bank, or whether you bank with another institution, there is different withdrawal limits which vary from as little as $200 to as much as $1k per day, regardless of number of atms visited. The total is an aggregate of all withdrawals made.

    • RogerX says:

      Unfortunately, in addition to having “funds availability policies” that limit how much deposited cash is available immediately versus “within 72 hours,” most banks also set ATM withdrawal limits at 300-500 dollars a day by default. Some will increase the limit at your request.

    • Necoras says:

      I kind of assume these aren’t free ATMs. If you have to pay $3 every time you make a withdrawal, there’s no way you’ll be able to make that work.

  3. backbite says:

    Freakonomics and NPR/Freakonomics radio did a nice piece on the savings account lotteries not too long ago and what a real benefit they are.

    If I was local I’d just sit there pulling out $100s in individual $20 amounts all day ;)

    Cool promo…

  4. Al Madison loves Dinosaurs says:

    I’d be tempted to open an account to try it out.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    Banks complain that they lose money on every ATM transaction and that’s why they have to charge such high fess, yet try and find what they make/lose on every transaction and you will not be able to locate it anywhere. I called a gentleman in the ATM industry once (doing a report) and asked him what the average profit numbers were and he said that information is HIGHLY guarded and I would have to buy an industry report for over $10,000 dollars in order to get it. If the banks were truly losing money, don’t you think they would show the proof and not just say they lose money?

    • StarKillerX says:

      UYes, but these are the same banks that pushed people to use ATMs because it saved money by allowing fewer tellers.

      I mean consider how few people work in each local branch now compared to 20-30 years ago, largely thanks to ATM, and eventually debit cards. Even the small branches I’ve used locally have reduced their staff by probably 70% or more. In the mid 80’s the local branch I used always had at least 8-10 teller windows up and now they normally only run one or two.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        That’s what they don’t factor into their profit/loss formula. The savings from having more people using the ATMs and less people using tellers makes ATMs a tremendous profit center – that’s why there’s hundreds of thousands of them in America and more being installed every day. They wouldn’t install them if they were money losers (or at least not that many).

      • GearheadGeek says:

        Except for Chase, which seems to have balanced what they save by needing less staff per branch by having a ridiculous number of branches. There are 10 staffed branches within a 3-mile radius of my house, in a car-oriented city.

      • RogerX says:

        Dealing with tellers as a customer is unnecessary for 95% of transactions- specifically, simple deposits and withdrawals. Moreso as we become less and less cash-based with each passing day.

        As an employer, I can tell you a few things, having worked for a bank in the branch systems (technology) world for over a decade:

        The average length of service for a teller is nine months. Most get sick of the monotony and scrutiny associated with every aspect of their job. There is also a huge… HUGE level of terminations for negligence (math mistakes that cost the bank money or cause customers to complain) and attempted theft. It’s always attempted theft because you have cameras on you all day and every penny is accounted for for each transaction. At the end of the day, you’re accounting for every penny in your drawer and the manager is accounting for every penny in the vault. And if you’re not square, you’re both staying an extra hour. And if you’re still not square, it’s another hours for the incident report. And if anything smells funny (and it usually does), the investigators will be there the next day when you arrive for your shift to take your statement. I was friends with a couple of people who worked these investigations from an investigator and/or technical logging standpoint. They’d review your phone calls, voice mails, emails, instant messages, etc. Review camera footage. Do credit checks to see if you “need” money. All for a $12/hour job. Heard dozens of stories about 22 year old tellers who thought they were being smart and trying to cover a couple thousand going missing. Nobody ever succeeded, except in management.

        But that’s a story for a different day.

        • RynanEmery says:

          Used to work for a bank years ago. One time I had someone give me $500 extra (It was a car wash that used to bring in bags of unrolled quarters). Spent two hours looking for the difference (we closed a 7pm). Anything difference $500 either way was grounds for being written up and possible dismissal. And yup, every difference was looked at as theft.

          We finally it out but couldn’t confirm it ( I can’t remember why). Called the carwash-book keeper was on vaca for a week. Got written up and was waiting to see if I still had a job when the bookeeper got back. Fortunately a week later they called back an realized they were off too.

          And the last nine months I was making $10 an hour working for a bank that had been sold doing assistant manger work with hourly floaters who didn’t know anything and didn’t care.

  6. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    This hucksterism would make me very leery about depositing my money in this bank. It doesn’t give me much confidence.

  7. Chmeeee says:

    I wonder if you’d even need an account from there to do this. I can’t see any reason why I couldn’t have equal odds withdrawing with my BoA card. Too bad this is not one of the many weekends when I wander up that way.

    • RandomHookup says:

      The money has to be preloaded, so there’s probably not a special tray to feed only to the bank’s customers. For most people who aren’t customers, the ATM fees would make this a bad deal to do just for fun (though I’m sure there are enough idiots who would pay $8 for the chance to win some money).

      • pegasi says:

        if they take a cassette of 1500 $20 bills, and randomly put 75 $50 bills scattered in it – you have no way of knowing when it will give you a $50 mixed in with the $20s it dispenses when you request $300 from your account. Looked at that way, when you have less than 1/15 of the $20 bills in the atm that have been randomly replaced with 50’s…. it’s quite a gamble to hope you get one.

  8. axolotl says:

    How is this not exactly like a slot machine? Unless there is no ATM fee. Then it’s like a free slot machine, in which case I’d be down there every day withdrawing/depositing the maximum amount I could.

  9. Applekid says:

    Will the ATM have loud sirens and lights when you hit jackpot? Because it’ll make things real handy to know which folks to rob.

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I found this one machine at the casino that wins every time. You put in a dollar, and you’re guaranteed to wins four quarters. Every time!

  11. RandomHookup says:

    In celebration of it’s opening…

    Really? All the out of work English majors and you can’t find someone to proofread an ad?

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      They fired their proofreaders to save money. How else could they afford to give away money?

      Yeah, you’d think companies could proofread carefully before printing dozens/hundreds/thousands of posters, but they don’t.

  12. RynanEmery says:

    Fun. I used to work for a bank, and we kept somewhere around 10-12k in the ATMs on any given day. Half again as much on the weekends. But I’d give it a go. Granted there’s a few unknown variables but it’s probably way better odds than the casino…

    • axolotl says:

      It’s just one ATM. The ad says which one it is but I’m not telling you, cause I don’t want you getting my $50 bills!

  13. jeffpiatt says:

    this is an new one most panks doing atm promos put codes on the receipts and use it in an bid to get customers to take them home rather than leaveing them or balling them up under the atm. Hess gass and M&T bank is doing an free gas for an year promotional game in that method. the PNC bank surcharge free Atm prints out food cupons on there receipts.

  14. waterboy179 says:

    They forgot to mention that you would still have the $50 deducted instead of $20 if you “won”.

    • pegasi says:

      it wouldn’t work that way if they randomly replaced 20s in the unit that dispenses 20s with 50s. the atm would still think it dispensed 200 in 20s if that’s what you requested, because that’s what it’s told is in the cassette it’s taking bills from, it can’t tell that some bills have been randomly switched with 50s, so if you got one with your withdrawal, it would still only show that it took 200 from your account, not 230.

      I know of a situation where someone mistakenly loaded 20s in unit that was set to tell the atm it had 10s in it …. and so everyone got $20 bills when they should have gotten 10s…. they had everyone’s account numbers from the transaction records, so they tracked down all the people who got doubled withdrawals, and either corrected their accounts or got the money back… so they didn’t get free money as it was a mistake by the person who put the money in it…. boy were they in the doghouse!!

      Imagine if it were the other way… a unit set for 20s having 10s in it… and everyone only getting half of what they asked for… now that would be angry people…. so that’s why people who deal with atms have to know what they’re doing!!

  15. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    If this qualifies as a sweepstakes then they may be required to post the odds of winning.

  16. Press1forDialTone says:

    If you want to gamble, play the lottery, go to a casino, etc NOT to a bank.
    Next common sense issue?

  17. DouglasQuaid says:

    I work in a museum. During our annual Gala, the company who provides our ATM did a similar promotion, but used $100 bills instead. Many employees (including myself) reached our maximum withdrawal limits and didn’t get anything!