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ATM Vs. Bank Tellers

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In a match-up between an Automated Teller Machine, also known as an ATM, and a human bank teller, it's difficult to tell who the winner would be. Especially if time is of the essence. Both forms of banking have advantages and disadvantages, so depending on your particular needs -- and how much time you have -- you can choose the one that works better for you. Your bank statement will likely show that you had transactions with both human and electronic tellers during the course of the month.

Cash Withdrawals

If you're in a hurry and need a quick cash withdrawal, an ATM is fast and reliable. The automated system provides an efficient, streamlined approach for withdrawing funds from your account, and you don't usually have to wait in long lines to gain access to a machine. Once you enter your account information and select the amount you need, money is dispensed, reported and a receipt is issued. A human teller is usually slower than an automated machine. However, there are disadvantages when using an ATM for cash withdrawals. If the machine malfunctions and it's after banking hours, there's no one to contact immediately about the problem. There's also an increased risk of theft since there's no bank staff to supervise or monitor your transaction. According to a report cited by "Forbes" magazine, 30 percent of bank users opt out of using an ATM due to safety concerns. In addition, some banks charge fees for using ATM machines sponsored by other banks, and most ATM machines have limits as to how much you can withdraw in one day.

Check Cashing

If you need to cash a check, a human bank teller is your only option. You can't cash a personal check, payroll check, refund check, money order or cashier's check at an ATM. If you need money, a cash withdrawal is the only way you can get funds from an ATM. As frustrating as it might seem, this policy protects you from fraudulent consumers who might try to forge or falsify a check using your checking or savings account information. A live bank teller asks for identification, compares your signature against one on file and verifies your account information before she cashes your check.


When making a cash deposit or depositing a check, both ATMs and human bank tellers can complete the task. Once again, the speed and efficiency of an ATM often outperforms a live bank teller. Most ATMs are stocked with deposit envelopes, but they often get used up quickly, so one might not be available. Trying to make an automated deposit without an envelope is risky -- the machine rollers might eat your cash or check. Your deposit won't officially post to your account until a real bank teller verifies the funds, and you can't deposit coins in an ATM.

Complex Transactions

Complex transactions are nearly impossible with an ATM. If you need specific denominations, such as hundred dollar bills or two $10 bills instead of a $20, you're out of luck with an ATM. Or, if you want to deposit part of your check and cash the rest, you can't do it with an ATM. Human bank tellers can receive and dispense coins, but ATMs can not. If you have questions about your account, other than your current balance, an ATM isn't able to provide that information. Only a live bank teller can help you transfer funds from one account to another, such as from your savings to your checking account. According to "Time" magazine, some banks are changing the face of ATMs by using real people to perform automated transactions -- patrons can see an image of the teller on the ATM screen. Even though this makes transactions more personalized, an ATM machine still has limited ability to perform complex tasks.


As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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