The United States may have been among the first countries to see the automated teller machine become an established commodity, but in recent years, several foreign nations have not only caught up, but by some measures have actually surpassed the U.S.
At least that's the conclusion that can be drawn from a study from Deloitte & Touche, which relied upon data originally compiled by the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. The most recent figures are from 1992, but their most interesting feature is the relative trends they show for the growth in ATM usage in Britain, Canada, France, Belgium and Italy, as well as the U.S.
According to Deloitte. ATM withdrawals in the U.S. accounted for 136% of all cash in circulation in 1988. By 1992, that had grown to 162%. That was the slowest increase among the six countries tracked. That weak growth probably had much to do with the fact that most of the ATM growth in this country occurred in the early and mid-1980s, then tailed off. The other five countries essentially spent the late 1980s and early 1990s catching up to the U.S., according to John Harrison, a partner with the financial services practice in Deloitte & Touche's London office.
By comparison, cash withdrawn from ATMs accounted for 179% of the cash in circulation in the U.K. in 1988, and by 1992, that figure rose to 284%. French withdrawals rose to 120% in 1992 from 85% in 1988.
Harrison says the figures exceed 100% for several of the countries tracked because currency notes are recirculated two, three or more times during a given year.
That the U.S. had a lower percentage of cash coming from ATMs than the U.K. probably had much to do with Americans' greater reliance upon credit cards, he says. Americans are far more likely to charge a meal in a restaurant or a purchase in a department store than are consumers overseas.
Of the six nations, Italy's percentage of cash coming from ATMs was the lowest, and Harrison said that probably was caused by its citizens' traditional avoidance of their country's high taxes. Much currency in Italy never even makes it into bank accounts, so the ratio of ATM usage relative to other countries is reduced.