Now In Churches: ATMs!

Churches are stocking up on ATMs thanks to a new IRS rule that requires taxpayers to closely document their charitable giving. By placing an ATM in the lobby, congregants can collect a paper trail, and churches can collect tithings. It’s win-win. According to Time, the practice isn’t new:

Large urban churches have been accepting credit cards for several years, tapping into the Generation P (for Plastic) aversion to carrying cash. Pastors like to tell jokes about parishioners collecting Frequent Flier points on the way to heaven. A recent Dallas Morning News poll found that 55% of 200 local churches accept credit and/or debit cards.

Automatic checking account withdrawals are used by some churches, and more recently, ATM-like kiosks are now available in many church corridors and lobbies, where parishioners can swipe a card and receive a printed receipt, which they can either save for the IRS or plunk into the collection basket with a flourish, so pew mates will know they’re not spiritual freeloaders.

Despite wanting to appeal to “Generation P,” many churches only accept debit cards to avoid getting ensnarled in congregant bankruptcies.

The ATM in the Church Lobby [Time]
(Photo: spcoon)


Edit Your Comment

  1. iMike says:

    Wouldn’t writing a check accomplish the same thing?

  2. kaikhor says:

    Generation P, as they call them, don’t carry checks either.

    Anyway, if you do carry cash or check, they make little envelopes where you write your name and amount…and at the end of the year, the church gives you a statement of how much you gave. It’s a win win…

  3. theWolf says:

    This is what happens when you hand the church over to Mr. Burns.

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I wonder if God accepts Paypal.

  5. Bill Brasky says:

    That’s the problem with most churches…The whole “God is great, pass the plate” mentality.

  6. supra606 says:

    @bill51773: Amen!

  7. 4ster says:

    BILL51773: That is such an ignorant and pandering comment. The church exists in the world, and in the world, electricity, heating oil, computers, building maintenance, staff salaries, music, equipment, curriculum etc. all cost money.

    As does food for the food pantry, the discretionary fund that lets us stop evictions and help the poor pay for medicine, the construction materials that help us to repair the homes of people who are to old, sick, and poor to do it for themselves.

    I wouldn’t be too crazy about an ATM in my church, but I bet that if Consumerist would have been around 100 years ago, people would have complained that the church now takes “checks.” The fact of the matter is that the church has to learn to keep up with the methods and practices of the world.

    Christian people believe that giving to support the church is a means of grace, a way we learn what it means to thank God for our lives while learning what it means to be a people formed by giving. If you have a problem with that, then that is your prerogative. However, please, if you really don’t know what your talking about, please refrain from painting us all with the same brushing, assuming that we’re all run by crooked televangelists. Otherwise, you are just being intellectually lazy.

  8. bonzombiekitty says:

    Wasn’t there something in the bible about this?

  9. oldtaku says:


    It’s true. I’m technically older than Generation P and even I only have a little box of checks at home for things that absolutely require them. Everything on the road is done with cash or card, and even most things at home are paid for with electronic billpay. I would never think of taking the checkbook with me normally – though I guess if you knew you were going to church you could write one in the morning.

    The bottom line, I guess, is that the more convenient you make it for lazy/busy (your choice) people, the more likely you are to get their money.

  10. Steel_Pelican says:

    It’s been a while since I read the Bible, but I remember something about moneychangers in the temple…

    Somebody wasn’t too happy about it, but I can’t remember who. I think it started with a “J.” Jose? Jim? J. Jonah Jameson? Shit. It’s on the tip of my tongue.

    Let’s see… Moneychangers… Temple… Pissed…. Damn! I can’t remember!

  11. mermaidshoes says:

    “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the Temple, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said: ‘Get out of here.'” (John 2:13-16)

    “Jesus entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.'” (Matthew 21:12-13)

    so are ATMs the new moneychangers? & do the churches keep any of the ATM fees?

  12. ekthesy says:


    Not to mention paying the poor civilian folks that work for the church. I worked for a very small synagogue a couple of years ago. The rabbi and I were the only employees, and if people didn’t donate money, neither of us were getting paid.

    If we had to constantly “pass the plate” (figuratively, as this is not done in synagogues), we would have been in a lot of trouble indeed. So I opened a Paypal account, and members of the synagogue could donate online. I also had a credit card POS terminal at my desk so people could give that way if they were worried about CCs online.

    We were concerned, at first, that people would think it was a big flaming secular corporate insult, but we actually had our best fiscal year in decades. Folks will give a lot more if there’s no cash changing hands.

    That being said, I find ATMs at places of worship incredibly crass, mostly because of the advertisements.

  13. gibsonic says:

    my church doesn’t pass a plate…ever. There are unassuming offering/tithe boxes at the entrances and exits.

    most banks & credit unions offer online bill pay even for those bills that require a check(bank cuts/mails check). my parents give to their church this way.

    an ATM is just another way to pay the same money.

    I personally wouldn’t want to see branding in a church from some bank. I would hope they could install it with enough taste and understatement that it would be there only as a service (like having a coke machine ?) not as an advertising billboard for “Wachoiva” or which ever bank.

  14. obviousdiversion says:

    Bible cough Bible

    Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”

  15. dohtem says:

    @4ster: Beautifully said.

  16. gibsonic says:


    totally out of context and not relevent to this discussion.

  17. Trackback says:

    Is graffiti even illegal in New York these days? [Dumbo NYC]American Mortgage files for bankruptcy. Is this just the beginning? [Daily News] Tishman Speyer and Lehman Brothers’ acquisition of Archstone-Smith delayed. [WSJ] You never know when you are going to need a few extra bucks while praying.

  18. Trackback says:

    Local · Pet shelters trying out a new advertising campaign [Gothamist] National · Those Big Johnson t-shirts are still around [Datehole] · Rumor: Best Buy to sell iPhones [Gadget Lab] · Clothing company Woolrich gets hip [High Snobiety] · ATMs opening in churches…

  19. Bye says:

    If my prayers go unanswered, can I submit for a chargeback?

  20. pestie says:

    @iMike: Write a what, now?

  21. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Ahh finally we see what the church’s have always really been about the almighty dollar. I know the church and I mean that for all religions has and does help a lot of ppl. But seriously once you move past the neighborhood church its all a big money pit. Its full of self-rightous money grubbing wankers. I remember when I was a kid how if you didn’t give enough the pastor made a special trip by during the week to chastise you.. Does the pope really need another set of robes come on….

    And I hope all the catholics are enjoying paying for the sins of the priests who have molested kids. I know here in L.A. its to the tune of 660 million or so.

  22. CreativeLinks says:

    @Rey: Funniest comment I read all day, thanks for the laugh.

  23. yg17 says:

    @AlteredBeast: he did, until he fell for one of those nigerian phishing e-mails.

  24. My church does the credit/debit card thing, and we’re really small (about 250-300 regular attendees, including children); plus, most of the attendees are older than Generation P. I think it’s just a convenience issue. No ATM’s though, the credit/debit is only online.

  25. Bill Brasky says:

    @ 4STER

    I was not being an intellectually lazy person. I have long held the faith, do not presume to lecture me. I merely say that there has been (time and again) more concern over money, than message. When I was a child, I was told that tithes go into an envelope to keep the business between the tither and God.

    Mark 12:43-44: 43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had

  26. jmschn says:

    Let’s keep the verses out of this discussion…thanks.

  27. donnie5 says:

    @jmschn: Lets keep the close minded people afraid of a couple bible verses out of the comments…thanks.

  28. 4ster says:

    BILL51773: Fair enough. In my church, we keep the giving between the giver and God (and the one person who sends out the annual statements). Personally, I believe churches that have to beat people over the head to give are quite possibly doing a lot of other things wrong. I mean, didn’t Paul say that giving should be “cheerful?”

    But still, I hold to my conviction that most churches can be characterized as “God is great, pass the plate,” is a cheap oversimplification.

  29. swalve says:

    So what? The church gets to define what it thinks is holy/crass. The local Catholic Church used to send out envelopes with our name already printed on them.

    The moneychangers were criminals/usurers. That parable has nothing to do with simply “money in the church.”

    And bible verses are irrelevant in this forum. It’s not fear, it’s reality. If people don’t believe it, than quoting it at them does nothing. If people do believe in it, you’re not changing anything.

  30. Charles Duffy says:

    @jmschn: Why? I think they’re relevant, since it’s principally Christian churches being discussed here. If you think to the contrary, could you at least explain your reasoning?

    I grew up attending a small community church (though it’s been several years since I’ve set foot in one of my own volition). While we had a single pastor, the individual giving the sermon rotated — and many of them had very distinct and often conflicting views of Christianity; we were strictly non-denominational (though several separate denominations’ views were frequently expressed in sermons approved by the Board of Elders), and it was explicitly up to the individual to “study ourselves approved”.

    There was a great deal of work to be done; one year I spent a summer taking down the house next door (which we bought for very little money other than paying off its overdue property taxes) such that the space could be made into a parking lot (and trying to save the wood for reuse by any member of the church who needed it). I helped in construction of the battered women’s shelter we built (largely using our own labor, rather than hiring contractors for what we could do ourselves) across the street, assisted in cooking breakfast on Saturday mornings for anyone who chose to come, helped to run the sound booth, fixed the (donated) computers — and never once was asked for a cash donation. Did the church need money to survive? Absolutely! But our involvement in the community (and our internal actions) were geared to use volunteer hours in place of tithed dollars whenever it could be so.

    I’m very skeptical of any church which maintains opulent facilities; it strikes me as an indication that their priorities are not in the right place. The tendency towards glorifying a building, rather than glorifying a deity (both in worship and by doing good works in His name) is unfortunate. Does a church need money to operate? Absolutely. Can a church which has its priorities focused such that it operates in a parsimonious manner do without something so crass as an ATM on its facilities? I can only hope that such is still the case.

  31. Charles Duffy says:

    @swalve: I only understand half of your position.

    If people don’t accept a given piece of source material as valid, then quoting it at them does indeed do nothing. If they do, on the other hand, then that material can be used as the basis on which to make an argument which attempts to sway their opinion.

    (I’ll grant that just quoting such material rather than making complete, well-supported argument based on it is not necessarily so useful).

  32. ArtDonovansDrunkenLovechild says:

    One thing I noted in the story was the comment about urban churches. The Baltimore Sun recently had a series of stories about an “urban” church that was struck by lightning and burned down. They were behind in fees to the city/state and had a series of improper financial activites documented, meanwhile the Pastor was driving a Bentley. I dont think this is that far from the norm.

    I think you see ATMs in the “Mega” churches in the larger cities. Those that have 1000+ families and operate more like a business.

    I think the smaller churches that allow donations via plastic are just keeping up with the times.

    The reconstructionist temple I attended as a child didnt offer a place to give weekly donations, as we werent supposed to carry money on the sabbath. Instead money was collected through yearly dues, and certain charity drives, which were often paid with credit cards. When money was raised for outside programs/charity donations an accounting was always provided in the newsletter.

  33. jmschn says:

    The Times article makes no mention of any verses in the Bible so I’m not so sure why verses w/in the comments section relates other than the Church. I’m Agnostic and I always cringe when I get fliers on my windshield telling me to go to a certain local always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Forgive me if I have offended with my comment, but I’m not so keen on having specific religions brought to my attention…which i guess people can say, well just ignore it but it’s difficult when it’s attached to my car or im walking on the street and people come up to me. I understand the passion behind it, i just don’t understand the need to bring it to my attention. hope that makes sense.

  34. synergy says:

    @Steel_Pelican: Hear hear.

    How hard is it to hit the bank before going to church? No, the ATM has to be sitting right in front of you to remind you/guilt you into giving the church money? Right.

  35. asherchang says:

    Is it so hard to just write down somewhere how much you donate each week at church?

    This makes me feel uneasy, as this would encourage members of certain unscrupulous megachurches to give away even more pf their hard-earned money in hopes of gaining prosperity as promised by certain wolf-ministers.

    Anyways, should banks profit at making offerings more convenient for church-goers? Didn’t Jesus get angry at money changers and people selling animals in temple courts for sacrifices?

  36. SBR249 says:

    I think quoting certain relevant Bible verses is completely appropriate in the context of the comments. The title of the article does pertain to ATMs in churches and the Bible is the pillar of the Christian faith. If a discussion is to be held regarding whether ATMs in churches is in line with the Christian faith, shouldn’t the Bible be considered a good source from which to support one’s arguments? I mean, after all, it is the holy book of Christianity. If one does not like having to read Bible quotes, then perhaps a discussion on whether ATMs in churches violate the Christian principles might not be most necessary thing to read (or to comment in).

  37. jmschn says:

    @SBR249: Which is in fact the attitude I take when I remove the flier from my windshield or ignore if it’s present in front of me. I will move along now and read other Consumerist. Thanks for your viewpoint.

  38. bnissan97 says:

    I saw a topic on this on television and I agree to what the idea man or pastor or owner of this or whoever he was. He said that people use check debit now and collections went down because we don’t carry as much cash on them (to put in the collection) since check debits work most places.

    This idea is horrible he commented; well it was an adjustment when people started giving money per se to churches versus livestock and harvests. I agree with him, so think of that!!

    Were just advancing too different ways of doing things is all.

  39. hop says:

    when arte these outfits gonna start paying taxes……what makes them so special?????

  40. gibsonic says:


    separation of church and state.

    the state no more wants the church in its business as the church does not want the government in its business.

    if the church is taxed, then it would then require (official) representation in the government.

    Like it or not people, the USA was founded first by those seeking freedom from religious persecution and government run religion and second from unfair taxation by Britian on sugar, stamps, tea, etc…without representation.

    how relevant is it now that this discussion is about taxation and religion.

  41. Churches are stocking up on ATMs thanks to a new IRS rule that requires taxpayers to closely document their charitable giving. By placing an ATM in the lobby, congregants can collect a paper trail, and churches can collect tithings. – Consumerist

    If all you need is an ATM slip for the paper trail, this seems like a non-problem. I mean, the people who give to the church in cash were almost certainly getting the money from an ATM already. I don’t see how putting the ATM in front of the church changes matters much except in the case of poorer neighborhoods where the banks won’t put up ATMs or branch offices.

  42. itsjos says:

    as if the church didnt guilt you enough

  43. Trai_Dep says:

    You know if the priests passed the altarboys across the pews (fee for service, of course!) instead of hoarding them, they wouldn’t need any (stinkin’) ATMs.

    Selfish bast*rds!!

  44. arkan says:

    OK, to everyone who keeps bringing up the money changers verses of the Bible – they don’t even relate. A little history lesson for you…

    When Jews in Biblical times went to pay their temple tax they could only do so in half-sheckel coins because they were one of the few coins minted in very pure silver that did not have the image of a pagan god on them. So the Jews would have to change any of the money they had with pagan images on it for these half-sheckel coins. What happaned was that they money changers became the only source of these half-sheckel coins and ran up the price on them because they knew that the Jews needed them to pay their tax. Simply put, the problem was that the money changers were taking advantage of the Jews. It was that injustice that Jesus had a problem with, not the fact that they were providing a service for people.

  45. wring says:

    child abuse settlement cases wont pay for themselves y’all.

  46. mermaidshoes says:

    @arkan: so it’s not an injustice when i gotta pay $22.50 to get $20 of my own money?

    it relates perfectly. next step, payday loans in the church lobby! praise the lord.

  47. hustler says:

    This way brothers in christ can pass cash over so the satan worshiping, athiest, child-molesting moderates at the IRS cant track it.

  48. ingridc says:

    I was driving back from lunch today and just realized that this photo was taken around the corner from my house. Upon closer inspection, it looks like the building used to be a full-service Wachovia bank branch with drive-thru banking and everything, but was taken over by the church. The actual church is in the building next door, but maybe the church needed more space so bought out the bank. Or something. Still weird…