There are lot of questions on here about cash machines, and the poor user experience around them.

The question is, Why Don't Cash Machine Automatically Adjust to the Person Using It?

For example, take Bob; 72 years old

He needs audio feedback and he will need that 10 seconds of "Thank You"

And James, 19, Student

He doesn't need the audio feedback, or 10 seconds. He also prefers all of his notes to be in £10; and as he only ever gets out bettween £10 to £70 the ATM can show those options rather than various options from £10 to £200...

For the record, the settings could be determinded by,

  • Averages over time of actions (amount withdrawn)
  • Generic profiling
  • Explicitly setting them (blind users for audio feedback where available)

Would this not solve virtually all questions raised around ATMs and their UX (with exceptions)?

  • all 'thank you' messages do is hold up the next customer. making them 10 seconds long would be terrible UX as no-one waits around to have a cash machine say 'thanks' !
    – Toni Leigh
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 16:52
  • i'd hazard a guess that it's because the software behind the ATM hasn't been updated since an age when it was sufficient just to make the computer work and the users were so grateful / in awe of this that they just accepted it was difficult
    – Toni Leigh
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 16:55
  • 3
    I'm fortunate enough to be near a couple of ATMs that do provide a strong user experience. For example, the one I use most often lets me get my most frequent withdrawal within one button press of putting in my PIN. So there's some hope that ATMs will eventually be pleasant to use across the board.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 6:43
  • Most Banks ATM adjust to the user's language just by reading your card country issue number, or fallback to English when local language is different from your own.
    – ColdCat
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 9:04

5 Answers 5


While this is practically feasible due to Big data analysis, there are a number of logistic issues.

  • Updating the software to provide the kind of customized service : A quick search revealed that most ATM's softwares still running windows XP and now under a deadline to update the operating system since Microsoft will shortly will be stopping support to XP. To quote this article

There are 420,000 ATMs in the U.S., and on April 8, a deadline looms for nearly all of them that underscores how sluggishly the nation’s cash delivery system moves forward. That’s the day Microsoft (MSFT) cuts off tech support for Windows XP, meaning that ATMs running the software will no longer receive regular security patches and won’t be in compliance with industry standards. Most machines that get upgraded will shift to Windows 7, an operating system that became available in October 2009. (Some companies get a bit of a reprieve: For ATMs using a stripped-down version of XP known as Windows XP Embedded, which is less susceptible to viruses, Microsoft support lasts until early 2016.)

  • All ATM's are not the same : To quote the same article referenced above

More advanced ATM fleets can do the update over their networks. Older ATMs must be upgraded one by one or even replaced entirely if they don’t have enough computing power to run the newer, more demanding software. “My bank operates an ATM that looks like it must be 20 years old, and there’s no way that it can support Windows 7,” says Cluckey. “A lot of ATMs will have to either have their components upgraded or be discarded altogether and sold into the aftermarket—or just junked

  • The cost of upgrades : The cost of providing this kind of upgraded service can range from a few hundred dollars to a a few thousand. To quote this article

The cost to upgrade a single ATM to Windows 7 can range from a few hundred dollars if its hardware is adequate, says Stewart, to thousands of dollars if new components are required.

That said,organizations are utilizing big data to provide customized services to users via ATM's . To quote this article

In a video posted in Youtube the bank touts the features of the new ATMS, which include customized screens based on customer preferences and "favorites" that appear highlighted on the screen based on each customer's ATM usage.

The bank is also introducing a new tool called "ATM Cash Tracker," which it claims is a first of its kind in the industry. The feature allows customers to visually track their monthly Wells Fargo ATM withdrawals and will appear automatically on the main screen. This tool also allows customers to set a monthly withdrawal target and view details about how much they withdrew the prior month and their average over the past 12 months.

Update: I just found this excellent article which talks about how the APSIS4all (Accessible Personalized Services In Public Digital Terminals for all) consortium is working on making digital terminals such as ATMs and TVMs more accessible and usable through personalization. To quote the article

Direct and Indirect Interaction Approaches

APSIS4all implements two different approaches to an inclusive user experience via either “direct” or “indirect” interaction. The direct approach involves providing users with a contact or contactless smartcard that stores their needs and preferences (see Figure 1).

enter image description here

The individual user accesses a web interface (see Figure 2) that allows them to identify their particular needs and preferences. The web interface guides them through a process to define and customize how a terminal presents their information. This information is stored using international standards, which facilitates the sharing with different service providers and systems. One relevant standard is EN 1332.

enter image description here

Once the users get to a terminal and present their card, the terminal changes the settings based on the stored information to suit their preferences, providing the most appropriate interface available. That way, public terminals automatically adapt to the individual user. Users can activate a range of personalized features such as changing the size of text, setting foreground and background colors, enabling audio output, adding sign language avatars (see Figure 3), or adding help content to support their interaction with the terminal.

enter image description here

  • I don't see how big-data analysis will lead to a more customized experience.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 0:03

Okay, as a BSA working with ATM's here are my two cents. ATM's UX is different from that of a PC. They are basically finite state machines, so every screen you see is a state on which the device finds itself. While this may seem sluggish and unreasonable in terms of UX, it's essential to the transactional nature of ATMs. Note: While ATMs do run WXP, they only do so for system configuration and maintenance, a parallel OS is the one responsible for the consumer presentation and transaction management (not always). The ATM in no way is able to decide on the transaction outcome. There's this thing called transactional switch serving the ATMs. It controls every financial aspect of the user-ATM interaction. Even the textboxes on which you digit the amount are remotely rendered by the switch. The amount, the count of bank notes to dispense, even the receipts are sent as a print command via the switch.


I can only comment on the "amount withdrawn" suggestion.

The available denominations for bank notes are dependent on the cash left in the ATM machine. The particular "configuration" of denominations per machine depends on the profile of people that use the machine (in the neighbourhood where it is installed), the time of the month, and the time since the last refill from the bank.

I have a friend who worked at the ATM division of one of the largest banks in our country. He said that they had a big problem with running out of small denomination bills very quickly, as most people tend to withdraw small amounts. They had to basically ensure somehow that the denominations are evenly withdrawn over time. Ideally you would like to maintain a spread of denominations until the next refill, and not have an ATM that can only dispense $100 bills for example. To do this, they had to tweak the available options for quick withdrawal (the options on screen), while still allowing the user to enter their own amount (denominations permitting). So this was customization on a macro level I guess.

The other problem with denominations is that they have varying life-spans. For the US, I found this summary from the Federal Reserve:

  • $1 - 5.9 years
  • $5 - 4.9 years
  • $10 - 4.2 years
  • $20 - 7.7 years
  • $50 - 3.7 years
  • $100 - 15.0 years

I know that this might seem irrelevant, but it is in the best interest of the banks to ensure that they don't over or under supply particular notes, as this may have a knock-on effect on the overuse (wear due to exchanging hands) of particular notes. I am not sure if it would be feasible to maintain a customized "default" withdrawal amount per customer (based on their unique withdrawal history), considering the practicalities of keeping an ATM's cash supply fully stocked.

I live in a developing country. Here, ATMs are frequently targeted by bombings, and the supply trucks are heavily guarded, with the supply times and routes changed every time to avoid so-called cash-in-transit heists (a very deadly problem). I found the logistics involved in supplying ATMs with cash fascinating, considering I always took it for granted.

I don't personally care for a personalized ATM screen, but it may be because I have memorized exactly which buttons to press in which sequence to withdraw money in the shortest amount of time (partly for security reasons, but also to save time). I have developed the habit to always withdraw the same amount of money to make this easier. My muscle memory ignores all the superfluous options, except if the ATM has run out of the denominations that make up my preferred option.

  • That seems so weird how the $50 is only 3.7 years and the $20 is 7.7 years... Like, there is not pattern to it. It's like they just randomly decide which notes to replace/take out of circulation and which not to. Like how do $50's become wrinkled/defaced/old before $20's?
    – user39400
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 21:27

Some areas of software advance in a very conservative and cautious way. Errors in military, medical, and banking systems can be catastrophic. They simply can't afford to innovate with the speed of less critical software.

Beyond that, the very idea of adjusting implies change. If the system learns and adapts, people could get confused by the new behavior, and this opens up new possibilities for errors.

I sometimes use other peoples ATM accounts (with permission of course) and vice versa. If one account behaves too differently from another there's another potential for confusion.

Consistency, convention and safety in some cases is more important than efficiency.


A big issue with ATM customization is that most of the time, ATM physically has almost no information whatsoever on the customer - only the credit card number and expiry data. The major card standards don't have any place whatsoever to note user's preferences on the card, or a protocol to request such preferences from the issuer of that card.

If it's "your" ATM and "your" card, then your ATM could contact your systems and fetch information about the cardholder, but that won't work for most of the people using that ATM unless you're in a market where all your customers almost exclusively use your own ATM network.

  • I understand that it won't have the personal records but as you say it would obviously fetch a string of settings, in exactly the same way HSBC can access the bank balance of a Natwest customer...
    – tim.baker
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 19:05
  • @tim.baker No, they cannot fetch a string of settings. There is a fixed, very limited set of requests that the network (i.e., all the many thousands of network members and the IT systems of each member) supports. Balance requests are included, "string of settings" is not included. Implementing such a "string of settings" would require (1) global standartization on what exactly it would contain; (2) some agreement of worldwide banks that it such proposed standard is a good idea; (3) waiting for everyone (many thousands separate systems) to implement the changes. It can be done, but not easily.
    – Peteris
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 19:34

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