Consumers aren't rushing to embrace the world of electronic banking with its proliferation of automatic teller machines, according to a survey by the United States League of Savings Institutions.
While the typical household averages 30 non-cash financial transactions a month, 91 percent of them are paper-based, said O. Tom Thomas, the league's expert on electronic payments systems. Of those 30 transactions, 24 are checks written for purchases or bill payments, he added.
"Although savings institutions and banks have installed more than 60,000 automated teller machines ATMs throughout the country, the typical household uses an ATM only once every three months," Thomas said.
Local bank officials, however, said yesterday they have witnessed a marked growth in the use of ATM cards by their customers, and that electronic banking was never intended to replace the checks that consumers write to pay bills or make purchases.
"Of our current customers that have ATM cards, 45 to 50 percent use the cards regularly," said Roger Conner, spokesman for American Security Bank, which has 48 ATMs. "ATMs have made a dent in consumer banking habits if you look at the particular instance of consumers writing a check made out to 'Cash' and cashing it at a teller."
"The number of ATM cards in use doubled from 1983 to 1984, and the usage almost tripled from 1.2 million transactions in 1982 to over 3.3 million in 1984," said a spokeswoman for Riggs National Bank, which has 43 ATMs.
The Consumer Federation of America, responding to the league's findings, attributed the low use of electronic banking to the limits of ATMS. "ATMs are cash-dispensing machines, and are not really useful for anything else," said Alan Fox of CFA. Consumers are not as comfortable in using ATMs for depositing money because of fears they will be unable to prove they actually made the deposit if it is not recorded properly, Fox said.
"With anything more complicated than getting money out, the convenience of ATMs disappears," Fox said.
Younger customers under age 49 are more likely to use an electronic money system than their parents, the savings and loan league concluded. "Older persons don't need the ready access to cash that younger persons desire," Thomas said.
Some elderly customers who have the time would prefer to stand in line in a lobby and talk to other customers and tellers than use a machine, added Fox of the CFA.
Many elderly consumers simply have trouble dealing with machines or would prefer not to. "Consumers who are exposed to word processors and computers at a younger age are more comfortable with ATMs," Fox said. "As people become more comfortable with technology in general, the acceptance of electronic banking will grow."