- You may want to consider installing an ATM on-site if you own a bar, grocery store, convenience store, casino, gas station or cash-only restaurant.
- An ATM can increase your profits, expand the convenience you offer customers and lower your credit card processing fees.
- You can start your own ATM business to sell or rent ATMs to storefronts looking to implement them.
- This article is for small business owners who are interested in profiting from ATMs.
Business owners should always be on the lookout for ways to make more money, and some business owners look to ATMs (automated teller machines) to increase their passive income.
Brick-and-mortar businesses — such as restaurants, gas stations and nail salons — may benefit from having an ATM. It can attract more customers and make money for your business. But how profitable is an ATM?
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How to make money with an ATM
When people use an ATM, they typically pay a fee between $2 and $3, which is how businesses make most of their money through these machines.
“When a business allows an ATM to be placed at their location, they have the opportunity to earn a commission,” said Paul Carriere, an attorney at Favret Carriere Cronvich. “The simplest way to conceptualize earning a commission is when a person uses an ATM, there is a ‘surcharge,’ a fee for using the ATM.”
However, business owners typically don’t receive the whole fee. If you rent the ATM, the business that maintains the machine (fills it with cash, repairs it, etc.) receives some of the money.
“There are a number of variations on the split, but the business earns money based on the surcharge transactions,” Carriere added.
While businesses can make money through the fees, some business owners look for other ways to use ATMs to make money. One of the most common methods is by placing advertisements on the ATM.
“Companies are placing screens on top of ATMs and selling ads to run on those machines,” Carriere said. “This can increase revenue for ATM operators and locations.”
What types of businesses should provide ATMs?
The following types of businesses frequently keep ATMs on-site:
- Cash-only restaurants: Because 4 in 5 customers prefer paying with a credit card to paying with cash, you need to make payment easy if you only accept cash. That’s why most cash-only restaurants include ATMs on-site. And just as ATMs eliminate credit card processing fees, they can add to your profits.
- Bars: Both cash-only and non-cash-only bars are known to keep ATMs on-site. At non-cash bars, the cash that customers withdraw can go toward a jukebox or a pinball machine, for example. In every case, that money winds up back in your pocket.
- Gas stations: Most gas stations charge more to pay with a credit card than with cash. Keeping an ATM on-site gives customers the choice of whether to pay more for credit cards’ convenience or withdraw cash instead.
- Convenience stores: Many convenience store customers make smaller payments than they would at larger stores. Smaller purchases can make credit card processing fees a larger burden, which is why many stores set a credit card minimum. It’s also why convenience stores often keep ATMs on-site.
- Grocery stores: A cash transaction may be faster for grocery shoppers who need just a few items. These customers may benefit from an on-site ATM.
- Casinos: Most casinos require customers to convert cash to poker chips and use cash at slot machines. This makes ATMs key to a casino’s success.
Benefits of an ATM machine
If you’re considering installing an ATM at your place of business, there are several benefits you can expect. Chiefly, if you are a cash-only business, having an ATM on-site allows your customers to withdraw cash so they can pay you for goods or services. Additionally, you reap the benefit of an extra commission.
Here are the main benefits:
- Increased revenue: Revenue could increase because of the commission you earn on each transaction, as well as from new customers who enter your establishment to use the ATM.
- Convenience: Offering your customers an easy cash option inside your business means you’re providing them with convenience.
- Flexible plans: ATM companies often help with marketing and allow you to buy or lease your machine, depending on what works best for your business. There are short-term-contract and cancel-anytime options, and some companies help you market the ATM.
- Reduced credit card processing fees: Businesses with ATMs inside their shop receive more cash payments compared with businesses that do not. By putting an ATM inside your store, you can drive down credit card processing fees.
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Types of ATMs
If you’re considering adding an ATM to your business, it’s important to understand what types of machines are available and how each type can help your business. Here are three ATM models we found that make sense for small businesses:
- Nautilus Hyosung Monimax 5000: This is a typical stand-alone ATM that provides easy access to cash in many retail stores. It includes a sign topper to help your customers locate it, and it has a small footprint.
- Genmega G2500: This model is a very basic ATM. It doesn’t have as many features as some machines, but it is small and freestanding, making it ideal for smaller companies.
- Genmega GT3000: This is an example of a “through-the-wall” ATM, which means it is not a stand-alone unit but rather one that builds into a wall within a business. This can be a good option for businesses that are looking to provide safe and efficient outdoor ATM access.
Expenses associated with ATMs
You can rent or buy an ATM. Although it’s more expensive to buy one, you receive a higher commission per surcharge transaction.
Buying an ATM
ATMs cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, depending on if you buy a used or new machine. Although it’s cheaper to buy a used machine, they’re usually slower and look older, so people may be less likely to use them.
There are different types of ATMs to consider, such as countertop or freestanding models. The type also affects the price.
Also keep in mind that if you buy an ATM, you’ll be responsible for maintaining the machine, including keeping it loaded with cash and making sure it’s working properly. “Someone can buy the ATM outright … and place [it] in a location they own,” said Brad Daniel, CEO of America’s Bitcoin. “They can load money from their business into the ATM, cutting out a third party, which reduces costs.”
Buying your own ATM is very profitable, Daniel said, and between 15 and 30 transactions a month can yield a high return. “[It’s] a great secondary source of income that could equal anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000 extra per year,” he said.
In some cases, your ATM can be profitable even if it results in only 15 customer transactions per month.
Full-service ATM programs
If you don’t want to buy an ATM or worry about maintaining it, you can pay to participate in a full-service program in which a retailer maintains it.
“The ATM is put in a retail location; then cash is loaded,” Daniel said. “The largest cost associated with this is rent to the retailer. The rent is usually a percentage of the service charge. That is the retailer’s ‘rate’ or ‘commission.'”
How to start an ATM business
Many small business owners may want to add an ATM to one or all of their locations. If you’re looking to start a business that buys and sells ATMs to small businesses, there are some considerations you should be aware of.
First, just as you would before considering any business endeavor, do your research on the market, including how big the market is, who the major players are and how you would fund your business.
Here are some additional general steps to follow as you begin your ATM business journey:
- Consider the startup costs. Common startup costs include office space, machine purchases, legal or business-creating fees, and staff fees.
- Make a list of retail locations well suited for an ATM. Target customers could include places such as gas stations, bars and convenience stores.
- Sell or lease ATMs to interested business owners. As you talk to retailers and small business owners, negotiate the best deal possible and keep your costs in mind, especially if you are providing a full-service arrangement.
- Install the ATM. Once the machine is installed, load cash and start collecting your fees. If you are using a full-service model, you’ll need to service the ATM regularly to ensure it is fully operable.
- Grow your business. Expand your business by finding new locations and providing them with ATMs. As your clientele grows, so will your workforce and your inventory of ATM machines.
Should you get an ATM?
An ATM can be helpful for your business if your customers might be more likely to pay with cash than a card on-site. That’s especially true if you expect enough cash withdrawals per month for you to profit from your ATM. Some careful math and deep thinking about how often customers will use your ATM can help you make the right call. And if you succeed, you can use the extra cash to fund all kinds of business ventures.
Saige Driver contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.