Are ATMs Obsolete?

ATMs are celebrating their 40th birthday with a midlife crisis, wondering if their usefulness to society is at an end as people increasingly rely on credit cards for everyday transactions, and debit cards for cash back.

The numbers are pretty startling: The total number of machines in the U.S. dropped by 1,000 from 2005 to 2006 (although still at a hefty 395,000). The total number of U.S. ATM transactions dropped in 2006 for the second consecutive year, to 10.1 billion. Monthly transactions per U.S. ATM, at 2,131 in 2006, are barely a third of the level in 1996.

ATMs are expensive for banks, costing up to $50,000 per machine plus annual maintenance costs of at least $12,000. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer thinks the tea leaves spell the obsolescence of ATMs. We are not sold. What do you think? Vote in our poll, after the jump…

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Is the ATM growing obsolete? [Seattle P-I]
(Photo: DarthMullet)