When I first started traveling for business, and I travel a lot for business, it was the ubiquitous American Express travelers check that accompanied me. But these days, I carry a wallet stuffed with foreign currencies — a couple hundred US dollars, a hundred or so British pounds, similar amounts of Aussie dollars, and yes, lots of euros. And, from time to time, I compliment them all with a few Canadian or Singapore dollars.
Airport ATMs are my friends. I know where they are at just about every major airport around the world. I also know the ones I can trust for uninterrupted service when I am in a rush and just have to get out of the airport.
There was a time when conversations about cash and the emergence of the cashless society considered baby boomers an exception. After all, we tended to hold onto cash as a form of budget control and a way to handle unexpected emergencies.
However, increasingly, everyone is carrying cash as they travel — and for multiple reasons. If you want to buy a drink as the last bus is pulling out, just dump some notes on the table and run — something I have witnessed more than once before.
Have you ever wondered why we are less worried about pick-pockets when carrying cash than when we have a bunch of plastic? Losing plastic is a pain — the phone calls, the explanations and then having to change every website where you had recorded your cards. After doing so a couple of times, what’s the real damage in losing a couple of hundreds of dollars, apart from your pride?
The world’s networks of ATMs, curiously enough, are still driven by payments solutions running on HPE NonStop systems and, for this tired traveler, it is somewhat revealing to find that, whenever you insert plastic – debit or credit — into an ATM, there is a more than a 50/50 chance it will pass through at least one HPE NonStop system.
Of the ATMs installed in North America and the payments networks supporting them, 80% of US payments run on nonstop systems, which is a reminder of the value proposition that comes with ATMs running on networks supported by fault tolerant systems.
I recently had an opportunity to talk with OmniPayments CEO Yash Kapadia. “When it comes to supporting ATM networks and providing a payments Switch, NonStop simply makes my life a whole lot easier,” he said.
Cash is still king across much of North America, especially when it comes to smaller purchases, like a cup of coffee, a pack of gum or a pint of beer. We are not transitioning to a cashless society as fast as many anticipated. On the contrary, we are truly awash in cash. As a society, we are proud of our home country’s sovereignty, and as such, remain tied to our country’s cash in ways we never expected.
As Yash reminded me, “Cash is not only king for the financial institutions we serve, cash keeps societies whole in the sense that, with cash, a large proportion of a country’s population enjoys a level playing field when it comes to paying for that all-important little stuff!”
There is a reason why we call it the mighty dollar, pound, or whatever, as we continue to depend on our currency in so many different ways. And as tourism expands almost exponentially, it’s what we will continue to depend upon everywhere we go.
This in turn continues to put pressure on financial institutions as they strive to keep the ATM networks relevant and yes, innovative. Personally, I don’t happen to like interacting with humans and rarely venture into a bank’s branch office, but when I do, I don’t venture past the lobby as it’s the lobby ATM that I need.
American Express traveler’s checks have seen their day and mobile devices are becoming the go-to instrument for others. Yet, for me, there remains safety in having cash on hand and for as long as I rely on cash, I am comforted in knowing that the venerable ATMs continue to hold their place on the financial landscape.