Here's the sales pitch: use the service as much as you want for a flat monthly fee of under $10, potentially saving money over paying per transaction. It sounds like Netflix, but it's a new and fairly unconventional approach to how Cardtronics is selling ATM access.
The ATM operator's new ATMpass monthly plan is a direct-to-consumer option for its surcharge-free ATMs. It's an adaptation of the model Cardtronics uses with banks that can buy into its surcharge-free Allpoint network.
The consumer option is a bit more constrained. ATMpass provides access to ATMs in Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy locations in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Though this totals more than 5,000 machines, it is far smaller than the Allpoint network, which has 55,000 machines worldwide.
The market for ATMpass is also somewhat different from the market for Allpoint. The pitch behind Allpoint is it provides a wider cash-access footprint for bank customers, but the way Cardtronics describes ATMpass sounds very much like the typical pitch for prepaid cards.
"This is a perfect product for parents sending a son or daughter to another state for college," said Tom Pierce, chief marketing officer for Cardtronics. ATMpass would also appeal to consumers who prefer to use cash instead of a card for most transactions, he said.
To register for ATMpass, consumers link the card they already use to withdraw cash. This 'bring your own bank' model of ATM access may also appeal to traditional bank customers as their access to branches diminishes. The overall number of branches has fallen 4.8% since peaking in 2009, according to a study published last month by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Cardtronics is currently offering a three-month free trial for ATMpass to allow consumers to determine if it would be beneficial long-term.
Current pricing for ATMpass is $9.99 for one month, $25.47 for three months and $83.88 (or $6.99 a month) for a full year. If a bank charges "foreign" fees for using another operator's ATM, those would still apply.
Cardtronics will have to monitor how the consumers react to the ATMpass fees, said Madeline Aufseeser, a senior analyst with Boston-based Aite Group.
"I would wonder about elasticity of the fee relative to adoption," she added. "Does the fee become a stumbling point for future adoption? I am sure there are heavy users that use an ATM five or more times a month."
Cardtronics has had great success with its concept of placing ATMs in retail locations and the company "has surely done its market research on ATM usage" in developing the ATMpass program, Aufseeser said.
The ATMs in the Walgreens and CVS locations may or may not carry the Allpoint brand, "but the key is that all will work with the ATMpass program," Pierce said.
Late last year, Cardtronics introduced technology allowing Allpoint ATM users to deposit checks or cash at the units. In addition, Cardtronics introduced location-based offers generated through the ATM targeting those consumers who prefer to use cash.