People waiting at an ATM.

The automatic teller machine

We explain the history of the automatic teller machine (ATM) and how the invention changed banking forever.

2 min read

50 years ago, John Shepherd Barron had a vision of reducing people’s dependence on (the opening times of) banks. We think he would have been proud of us.

As he stood facing the closed doors of his bank on a Saturday morning in the mid-sixties, he decided to change the rules for obtaining cash. This prompted the development of the cash machine. First, he thought about the chocolate bar machines that he knew from train stations. Why shouldn’t a machine be able to spit out cash?

It wasn’t until 1967 that the Barclays Bank set up the first cash machine, located in Enfield, a small town north of London. The first machine could only dispense 10 pounds, which, according to the inventor, was enough for a wild weekend at the time.

With this installation, customers were finally able to withdraw money at any time, even if it was only from the one branch. Very soon, more banks followed suit, and cash machines spread across the globe (there are now 1.64 million worldwide). In 1968, the first German ATM was put into operation at a Kreissparkasse in Tübingen.

But many ATMs were complicated and unsafe, since they were lacking a connection to a central computer. To make matters worse, the ATMs in Germany were always inside bank branches, which meant they were inaccessible outside of opening hours.

In Germany, ATMs with around the clock accessibility have only existed since the 80s. Despite our population, that doesn’t make us the leader in Europe, only third place. 30 years later, it’s time to make a break for it. With the improvements we’ve made to card payments (more security, more control, better overview), we’re already working to make you independent from bank branches, ATMs and cash. In the next few months, we’ll be taking many more big steps that will change your banking routine.

We’re sure that John Shepherd Barron would be a N26 customer today, if he could.

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By N26

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