Wells Fargo rolls out card-free option at its ATMs

Wells Fargo yesterday became the first major US bank to offer a card-free option at all its ATMs. Wells Fargo customers will be able to use their smartphones to access any of the bank's 13,000 ATMs.

Other major US banks had rolled out card-free ATMs in limited locations.

Customers would need to download and log into the Wells Fargo app on their smartphones. They would then need to request an eight-digit code, which they could type into an ATM instead of inserting a debit card. They would then enter their PIN, just as they would if they were using their cards.

The card-free option could be more secure than using a debit card, according to Jonathan Velline, head of branch and ATM banking for Wells Fargo, as it reduced the chance that fraudsters could steal and copy the numbers on users' debit card.

The smartphone app generated a unique code that expired within 30 minutes.

Also, consumers using the app had to prove their identity on their smartphones – either by providing their thumb print or by typing in their online banking password – in addition to entering their PIN numbers. (Users need to only provide the PIN code with their physical debit card).

According to commentators, Wells Fargo's option was more complicated than that of other banks, but more secure than some. 

Wells Fargo customers would need to request a passcode within the mobile banking app, which they would enter at the ATM and then also enter their PIN.

The process was lengthy, which made it a poor option for customers who preferred using their cards.

Card-free ATMs may be expected to become mainstream when they are become easy and safe.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal in late 2015, Citibank was developing an ATM that would allow users to access the ATM by having it scan their iris.