We live in a credit-based society. A 2014 Gallup poll revealed that 71 percent of American consumers carried credit cards. While this form of payment dominates in several industries, credit-card operations remain impractical for some business models. This is particularly true for companies that primarily conduct small transactions, as processing fees add up quickly. In such cases, access to an ATM may prove preferable.
ATMs are more prolific than you think. Keep an eye out for them at these surprising locations:
While entrepreneurs within the culinary industry increasingly prefer credit-card transactions, food-truck owners often prefer cash only. This can be a problem when potential impulse buyers exclusively carry credit cards. While some food trucks set up shop near permanent ATMs, a few prefer an alternative solution: mobile ATMs. For example, in 2013 food-truck business Blend Express attracted attention by attaching ATMs to their vehicular kiosks in hopes of cutting out the middleman. Consumers spend $2 to withdraw cash from the onsite ATM — significantly lower than transaction fees elsewhere. Blend Express employees claim that customers appreciate the easy access to cash, even when they don't intend to buy food.
Salons and Barber Shops
Credit cards seem like a given at modern salons, but many stylists refuse to take payment in plastic. Cash-only business is particularly common at old-fashioned barber shops due to their unique setup. Most barbers pay for chair space or otherwise give a considerable portion of their earnings to salon owners. Credit-card processing eats away at what little remains after paying "rent." What's more, credit-card transactions can be tough to coordinate for stylists who work as independent contractors. Salon ATMs encourage cash-based payment, relieving hardworking stylists of a significant source of financial frustration. Onsite ATMs also increase the potential for generous tips.
At one time, library patrons paid late fines exclusively in cash. Some libraries now take payment via credit cards. Others opt for ATMs. These are most common at college libraries serviced by local credit unions. Increasingly, however, public libraries provide ATMs serviced by either credit unions or large banks.
In addition to allowing for easier payment of fines, library ATMs help patrons obtain cash for printing, making copies, and taking advantage of other valuable services. Some libraries also sell flash drives, headphones or used books, with proceeds directed towards "friends of the library" organizations or local charitable efforts. ATMs reduce credit-card fees, thereby maximizing proceeds.
Parking Ramps and Meters
Cash-only parking ramps abound; even ramps that ordinarily accept credit cards may revert to cash-only basis when providing event parking. Drivers don't always have cash on hand, so ramps or lots may provide ATMs to ensure prompt payment when customers are ready to depart.
While many drivers expect to see ATMs in parking ramps, they're at a loss when parking at coin-operated meters. Many find themselves digging through pockets and under seats for leftover coins. This is a widespread issue; despite the proliferation of card-operated systems, coin-only meters continue to reign supreme in many cities. Thankfully, ATMs are often available near pods of parking meters. This setup is particularly common at parking lots containing metered spaces.
ATMs remain critical in the credit-card age. From food trucks to parking ramps, they can be found in a variety of settings, where they benefit both businesses and their customers.