NEW YORK (CNNMONEY) — Video chat with a live teller, get exact change or pay your credit card bills. The nation's biggest banks are giving ATMs a facelift.
By investing in "new-fangled ATMs," banks are hoping to keep customers coming back and cut costs at the same time, said Mark Schwanhausser, a senior financial services analyst at Javelin Strategy.
It costs banks an average of $1.25 to conduct an ATM transaction, compared to $4.25 each time a customer makes a transaction with a teller at a branch, Javelin found. And while costs may rise for more advanced ATMs, it's still likely to be cheaper than in-person banking, said Schwanhausser.
Plus, ATMs that perform many of the functions that tellers do could allow banks to reduce staffing. "But they're not looking at it as a way to replace tellers completely -- it's a way to give the customer the choice," he said.
At Bank of America new Teller Assist machines, for example, you can swipe your debit card, credit card, driver's license or photo ID for authentication and then a live teller -- physically based in Delaware or Florida -- pops up on the screen to assist you.
You can then cash checks and receive exact change down to the cent. You can also withdraw cash in $1, $5, $20 and $100 bills. And soon, you'll be able to split deposits between accounts and make loan and credit card payments. To perform most of the more advanced functions, you need to be video chatting with a teller. But you can always perform standard transactions -- like getting $40 -- without connecting to an agent.
The bank says the machines will be able to perform about 80% of the services a traditional teller can, and they will be open longer than traditional bank branches -- from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Currently in 12 locations in Boston, the bank plans to place the ATMs in branch lobbies, 24-hour areas and drive-through locations across the country this year.
Earlier this year, Citi unveiled new Citibank Express machines in Asia that allow customers to log in using their fingerprints and open accounts and apply for loans and credit cards using videoconferencing. They may also eventually be able to print new credit and debit cards. The bank plans to expand the machines globally later this year, though it won't reveal specific countries yet.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo is introducing ATMs with 19-inch screens that will be open 24 hours and dispense $1, $5, $20 and $100 bills, instead of only $20 bills like traditional ATMs. The first new ATM was opened in Washington, D.C., on April 15, and the bank plans to expand to other U.S. locations.
It is also updating the interface on existing ATMs so that screens are personalized for each customer -- for example, it will give you the option to withdraw $80 right away if that's the amount you typically request and it will show you how much cash you've taken out over the past month.
Chase also has a new model of ATM that allows customers to receive exact change and to pay credit card bills. It has opened about 650 of these "self-service kiosks" so far and plans to have around 900 by the end of the year. It is currently piloting the option of dispensing coins in addition to bills and is "evaluating options" regarding videoconferencing services.
PNC, meanwhile, has upgraded more than half of its 7,200 ATMs over the past year to dole out change down to the dollar.
Schwanhausser said he wouldn't be surprised to see a growing number of banks investing in more advanced ATMs.
"If people gravitate toward that and there's enough volume there, I would expect ATMs to take on a greater roll in banking," he said.