Wells Fargo Replaces Cards, By Giving Customers Yet Another PIN

What if, instead of cards, consumers just had to put in a code—and then another code—to get access to their money at the ATM?

Wells Fargo announced today that its customers now have full access to about 13,000 card-free ATMs, installed across the United States.

Rather than inserting a card at these ATMs, Wells customers will use a one-time access code at the terminal.

First, the customer will log in to their mobile app, find the section entitled Card-Free ATM access, and request an eight-digit code—which will be used for this interaction, and this interaction only—before approaching the ATM, inputting the code, inputting their normal ATM PIN, and (finally) completing the transaction.

A spokeswoman for Wells told Bank Innovation:

Wells Fargo customers use all of our channels – everything from mobile to phone to branches to ATMs – to manage their finances. But mobile continues to be critically important, and it’s become the primary way in which more than 20 million of our customers interact with us daily, and 20 or more times per month.

Beginning the card-free ATM interaction on a mobile device will be both a more convenient, and a more secure way for consumers to access their accounts, according to the bank.

Later this year, Wells will also utilize smartphones for its NFC or “tap and pay” technology for their ATMs—presently, about 5,000 Wells ATMs have NFC capabilities, but the bank will add to that number later in the year, as the “tap and pay” feature goes live.

The anticipated feature will allow customers to log in to the mobile wallet of their choice—Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and the Wells Fargo Wallet will all be supported—before tapping the device against an NFC-enabled terminal for authentication. The spokeswoman said:

When this feature is live, a customer will be able to initiate a transaction by signing into a leading mobile wallet (Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay or Wells Fargo Wallet), and holding the phone near an NFC-enabled ATM terminal. Once authenticated, the customer will input a PIN and complete their transaction. As of January 2017, more than 40% (more than 5,000) of our 13,000 ATMs are NFC-enabled from a hardware perspective. We anticipate that, later this year, we will be able to make this feature available to all of our customers at those NFC-enabled ATMs, with plans to bring this functionality to all of our ATMs in the months to follow.

Considering that mobile seems to be rapidly emerging as a dominant channel for FI consumer engagement, beginning an ATM interaction there isn’t a bad bet—after all, what’s a human without a smartphone these days? However, one of the prime draws of mobile banking is its speed.

Is logging into a mobile account, receiving the code, putting in that code (which will be as long as a Social Security number every single time), putting your PIN in, and then finishing the transaction, really going to be more convenient than just…bringing a card and putting in the PIN?

The security of the method certainly appears to be tighter, but that’s the same argument that was used for chip technology.

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One thought on “Wells Fargo Replaces Cards, By Giving Customers Yet Another PIN

  1. I think there’s another factor that’s being overlooked in the always-lumpy transition from physical/traditional to pure-digital payments, and that’s the convenience of eliminating the plastic card form-factor altogether. A growing number of us are replacing our traditional wallets with stick-on ones that attach to the back of phones, and my ATM/debit card didn’t make my ‘final four’ of cards that fit in the little phone sleeve. The convenience benefits of dumping a traditional wallet have proven to be extremely strong (I’m never carrying a traditional wallet again, and I now use mobile payments more than ever!), yet the downside is that I don’t have room for cards I occasionally and decreasingly use–like an ATM/debit card. I found the new menu location within seconds, I’ll take an extra later of security all day long, and for me this new feature means the difference between having access (or not) to a network of ATMs.

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