by Michael MacLeod
CASH machines dealing coins and foreign currency will appear at Scottish banks – just in time for Christmas.
Hot on the heels of a machine that offers £5 notes, the Royal Bank of Scotland is rolling out its own credit crunch-beating hole-in-the-wall.
Coin pay-in machines will be installed at a new RBS branch in Livingston in December, for people who own small businesses.
They’ll be able to sort out their finances down to the very last penny without having to speak to a bank teller.
And if the idea proves a hit, bank bosses say ATMs that actually dispense coins could appear “within a couple of years.”
An RBS spokesman confirmed: “We are opening a new branch in Livingston with new technology for faster pay-ins and we’re in talks with various people about coin dispensing machines.”
Barclays bank is also looking to cash in on self-service banking, saying a revamp of 1,700 branches will also include foreign currency machines.
The country’s first £5 note machine was unveiled in East London last month to help those on tight budgets.
The firm behind the idea, Bank Machine, launched its “Fight for Fivers” campaign with the backing of the Bank of England.
They’ve earmarked 20 other UK cities for the new ATM with the aim of increasing the humble fiver’s circulation.
Taking the downscaling cash craze one step further, RBS said “people from all walks of life could benefit” from ATMs dealing in coins.
A spokesman said: “The coin pay-in machines will be unveiled at the Livingston grand opening in December, and more branches will be getting the coin pay-in technology soon.”
Livingston has had the same tiny RBS branch for over 40 years, but it struggled to keep up with central Scotland town’s massive retail and business boom in the 1990s.
Bank managers admitted the branch was too small, and are now putting the finishing touches on a brand new building in the town centre.
It will pilot the new coin-only machines with a view to a national rollout.
The RBS spokesman added: “It’s part of a major investment and means that anyone who deals with large amounts of small change can pay that into their account quickly.
“It would be great to have a machine that dispenses coins and we are always discussing changes with different partners.
“But taking into account the amount of testing that is needed before ideas hit the high street, we’ll probably be talking about this coming within a couple of years.”
Money expert Nick Bamford, managing director of Informed Choice, said the machines could pose a security risk if people weren’t careful.
He said: “Depending on how these things work, it could make an awful lot of noise if you demand £100 in coins.
“Anyone passing by would know you’ve got a huge bag of money on you and there’s a risk of being mugged if you’re not discreet.”
But he believes the British public is ready for coin machines, and praised RBS for its imagination.
He said: “These are hard times for consumers, so credit is due to the bank for such innovative thinking.
“People clearly need every penny they’ve got, and it’s fantastic that soon they’ll be able get exact amounts of money.
“It would be quite a big breakthrough in consumer banking, and Christmas is a brilliant time to trial the idea.
“My imagination is racing at the thought and I’m tempted to go up to Livingston just to see how it works.”
A Barclays bank spokesperson said they too were working the evolution of the cash machine.
They said: “We already have coin pay-in machines in our flagship branches.
“Our UK-wide programme of investment is part of the aim to be the best bank on the high street.
“One feature is self service entrance zones where there will be ATMs, coin sorting machines, paying in terminals and foreign currency machines which allow customers to get in and out quickly.”
Cash machine users in Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal shopping centre gave the coin machines idea a mixed reaction.
Jenny Howarth, 19, a communications student at Napier University hopes coin machines will make nights out more enjoyable.
She said: “There’s nothing worse than going to a cash machine half way through a Saturday night out and seeing that you’ve only got £9.
“I’d definitely use the machines if they do come out.
“You’d be able to get another round of drinks or even get a taxi home instead of walk.”
Fellow student Darren Shields, 20, was sceptical that coin machines would be able to meet demand.
He said: “People always want change in their pockets but I can’t see how a cash machine would store all the coins to give out all the money.
“Plus you can already just walk into a bank and ask for whatever amount you want, so it seems a bit pointless.”
But single mum of two Maria Czersek, 24, said people in receipt of benefit would be the biggest users of coin cash machines.
She said: “I get child support paid into my bank, and having kids is really expensive.
“You can’t always get to the post office to get your benefits money in hand, so this would be brilliant.
“I waste a lot of money actually getting change, breaking into ten pound notes when I can’t afford to.
“It’s your money and you should be able to take out whatever amount you need.”