- Apr 16, 2018
There are a few things modern society can’t live without. Electricity. Food. A Netflix subscription with high-speed internet. You know, just the basics. Some of the most profitable companies are in the business of providing those necessities. And here’s another modern necessity that also happens to be pretty profitable: running an ATM. Yep, ATMs don’t just dispense money to account holders; they also earn money for the owner of the machine!
We may take these machines for granted, but imagine what would happen if nearby ATM machines suddenly stopped working. Chaos, I’m guessing. People need ATM machines. And that demand for easy access to one’s savings account is what makes running an ATM so profitable. With that in mind, I’ll show you how you can profit by owning and running your own ATM machine.
But before begin, I need to manage your expectations first. Owning and running your own ATM machine can be very lucrative, but requires considerable capital. This isn’t a means to make easy money. That said, you can earn big money. But you’ll have to treat this as an actual business… which it is, actually.
But once you get past that, you’ll see just how great a money-making endeavor this is. Running an ATM machine earns you passive income. Passive income means you get to earn without doing much beyond the initial set-up. Kind of like running some rental properties. But at least with ATM machines, you won’t have to deal with tenants and building maintenance.
With that out of the way, read on and learn!
Benefits of Owning ATM Machines
ATM machines don’t just dispense money, they also earn money for the owner. I don’t think any of us think about that whenever we withdraw money from an ATM. But as an ATM owner, you will be earning from these transactions. That will be your incentive for setting-up these machines and providing a valuable utility to the public.
1. You can charge Convenience Fees
Third party machines (that is, a machine that is not directly owned by a bank) charge a convenience for each withdrawal made on it. Charging convenience fees is the most common way for the owner to make money. And it’s legal and legit, too.
That’s because you are providing people a convenient alternative. Let’s say a person is at the cinema and needs to withdraw some cash to buy food from the concession stand. If that person’s bank doesn’t have an ATM in the lobby, he or she will have step out and look for an ATM, possibly missing the beginning of the movie.
But if you had an ATM machine in the lobby, that person wouldn’t have to step out. They could just withdraw from your machine. And that convenience fee is what you’ll charge them for the, well, convenience.
The bank doesn’t magically teleport money to your machine whenever someone makes a withdrawal. You front that money, and the bank replaces it within 24 hours. So think of it as a loan. Except this time, roles are switched. You’re the one providing the loan, and the bank is the one that has to pay you back. I get a kick out of having the bank owe me for a change!
2. It’s convenient and easy to run
Setting up an ATM business requires a large initial investment (more on that later). But once you’ve got the ball rolling, it’s actually pretty low-maintenance. An ATM machine requires very little operating costs. Low operating overhead is what made getting into this business so appealing to me.
I still manage several rental properties and while they’re pretty profitable, the day to day management can be a bit of a drag. It seems like every other day, there’s a tenant asking for repairs or even skipping out on rent. But there’s no drama associated with running an ATM machine.
In a perfect world, we would be able to buy ATM machines in the local appliance shop and set them up wherever we want to. But there are a few things you’ll have to consider first.
Cost of Acquiring a Machine
If this sounds like the business for you, you’ll have to get a machine (or machines, depending on your investment). Here’s a reality check: ATM machines cost money. The latest models cost anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000. But in all honesty, that $7,000 did nothing the $2,000 couldn’t. You’re paying extra for all the bells and whistles, but you may not need all those features. A $2,000 already has all the features you’ll need. It’s dependable, durable, and, most importantly, keeps your money safe.
While shopping around I found a few older and second-hand models selling for cheap. They were pretty tempting, until I learned that most of them didn’t conform to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some of those machines didn’t have audio output or Braille keypads. I passed on those models, and so should you.
Availability (and actual cost) will depend on your location, but overall, you’ll want a machine that is ADA compliant, durable, dependable, comes with a full warranty, and has reliable customer service.
Keep the above tips in mind, and you’re good.
The ATM Processing Agreement
So you’ve got your machine, now you need to enter a processing agreement with the bank(s). This could involve loads of paperwork, and there’s honestly more info on the subject than could fit in this post.
But in a nutshell, an ATM processing agreement is a document that lists all the rules, protocol, and operating procedures between you and the bank. You can also think of it as insurance. The agreement ensures that the bank will pay back the money that your machines have dispenses.
This process can get tricky for non-finance people. I opted to hire an ATM processing company to handle this step. They have in-house accountants and lawyers who know how to draw up a contract that will protect both you and the bank.
Location, Location, Location
Location matters. It’s true for real estate, and it’s true for just about any type of business… ATM machines included. You can have top-of-the-line machines and agreements with the country’s top banks, but if you but your ATMs in a deserted lot, you’re not going to get a good return on investment.
As with every aspect of this business venture, research is key. I recommend starting with a list of potential locations for your machines. Since you’re still in the research phase, add as many locations as possible.
Once you’ve finished your list, it’ll be the time to look into feasibility. You’ll want a location with high foot traffic. If that location is a commercial area like a mall, the management should be able to provide a report on foot traffic. (I used to work in retail, and I always had foot traffic stats ready for potential tenants and billboard renters).
With that info in hand, you can now make a more informed decision. But note that places with high foot traffic will naturally charge you more for space rental. So try to maximize your machine's exposure, but be willing to compromise if you can’t afford a spot in the new mall uptown.
Pro tip: the senior accountant from the ATM processing firm I worked with told me that an ATM machine will be used by 3% to 5% of the people passing by.
Let’s say your spot has foot traffic of 1,500 people per hour, which is about average for a large mall. Five percent of that is 75. So that’s 75 people making withdrawals on your machine per hour. Multiply that amount by your convenience fee and the number of hours the mall operates, and you have a rough idea of your potential daily revenue.
Take note that you’ll have to subtract operating expenses like space rental. But by determining foot traffic and usage, you can make more informed (and hopefully profitable) decisions.
Starting an ATM business is a legit way to get passive income! While most of my income comes from my rental properties, managing them is extremely time-consuming and tiring. I decided to get into the ATM business because I wanted a venture that was relatively low-maintenance.
Of course, it required considerable start-up funds. But I started small and got two entry-level machines. There were mountains of paperwork, but I outsourced that to an ATM agreement agency. I also had to do a lot of research to find the best location for my machines. But once I did all that, running the business is easy and pain-free.
And with profits coming in, I’m already looking at acquiring more machines, and putting them in spots with even more foot-traffic. (I got my sites in the new IMAX theater)
This article is based on my experiences running an ATM business. Now it’s your turn to share. Have you owned and operated ATM machines? Got any tips for picking the right machine and location?
Let’s hear your stories!