App-based point-of-sale systems are certainly making plastic and payment apps more affordable and accessible for small businesses, but for many, the paper dollar is still almighty. But with one in four Americans rarely carrying cash – even less among millennials, according to 2018 research from Capital One – not having an automatic teller machine in your cash-only place of business might drive away potential customers.
Buying an in-store ATM can be good for your company, but that's not always where the story ends – you can even go into the often lucrative ATM business itself, whether full time or as a side hustle.
Why Buy an ATM?
In addition to customer retention – you don't want a cash-less customer to wander away from your cash-only storefront in search of an ATM – ATM surcharge fees offer your business a passive way to earn supplemental income. Just having the machine itself may draw customers in, even if you do accept a variety of payment methods, especially if your location is near a variety of cash-only establishments. The ATM vendors at ATM Experts estimate that, on average, 3-to-5 percent of foot traffic visiting a business each day will use an ATM that's in their line of sight.
You don't even have to be a business owner to buy an ATM machine. Though commonly purchased or leased by retailers, landlords can put an ATM on their commercial property (as can government buildings), and entrepreneurs may choose to buy an ATM – or a fleet of them – as an investment. Those with a felony or any type of financial crime on their criminal record are out of luck, though.
Making the ATM Purchase
So you're ready to buy an ATM. The process isn't as painless as walking in and out of a Costco, but a variety of vendors that specialize in distributing ATMs (often alongside related devices like check cashing terminals and coin counters) make the process fairly straightforward, offering sales, installation and maintenance on models from prominent manufacturers like Tranax, Triton and Hyosung.
As of 2018 prices, basic ATM models start at about $2,500, plus shipping, though some can be had for as low as $1,995. Options such as armored protection will naturally raise the price, but most businesses will only need more affordable indoor machines. On top of that, many vendors offer leasing options (typically hovering at around $65 or so per month) while still others will install and maintain the machine for free, operating on commission from the withdrawals. Similarly, a system known as co-op ATM services sees the distributor of the machine and the business owner splitting costs down the middle.
While the risk of theft and vandalism is low, ATMs do need to be regularly serviced or repaired due to cash and receipt printer jams or communication errors. As such, seeking an ATM distributor that offers insurance and free, ongoing tech support is never a bad idea.
More to Consider
One thing to be wary of is that there are no major credentialing organizations for ATM vendors. While the Americans with Disabilities Act requires certain ATM compliance – such as minimum floor space, enhanced accessibility features, accessible form factor and clearly displayed fee disclosures – some sellers may try to get away with selling older, non-compliant ATMs, which may require costly upgrades on the part of your business. It's up to you to ensure that the machine you're buying is up to standard.
While having an ATM at your business location can encourage purchases and supplement your revenue, owning ATMs as an investment in itself serves as a legit business model for generating passive income. Going into the ATM business typically offers annual returns that outweigh the initial cost, making them a low-risk investment, not to mention a gateway into working flexible hours as your own boss.
Dan is a co-owner, founder and partner at two small businesses, both active in multimedia production in Los Angeles and Cincinnati. He's contributed what he's learned about small business over the past decade to publications such as Chron Careers, Fortune, AZ Central Small Business Tech, GlobalPost Careers, GoBankingRates.com, Motley Fool, MSN Money and others.