Year
1969
Month Day
September 02

First ATM opens for business

On September 2, 1969, America’s first automatic teller machine (ATM) makes its public debut, dispensing cash to customers at Chemical Bank in Rockville Centre, New York. ATMs went on to revolutionize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic financial transactions. By the 1980s, these money machines had become widely popular and handled many of the functions previously performed by human tellers, such as check deposits and money transfers between accounts. Today, ATMs are as indispensable to most people as cell phones and e-mail.

Several inventors worked on early versions of a cash-dispensing machine, and some existed as early as 1967 in other countries. Don Wetzel, an executive at Docutel, a Dallas company that developed automated baggage-handling equipment, is generally credited as coming up with the idea for the modern ATM. Wetzel reportedly conceived of the concept while waiting on line at a bank. The ATM that debuted in New York in 1969 was only able to give out cash, but in 1971, an ATM that could handle multiple functions, including providing customers’ account balances, was introduced.

ATMs eventually expanded beyond the confines of banks and today can be found everywhere from gas stations to convenience stores to cruise ships. There is even an ATM at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Non-banks lease the machines (so-called “off premise” ATMs) or own them outright.

Today there are well over 1 million ATMs around the world, with a new one added approximately every five minutes. It’s estimated that more than 170 million Americans over the age of 18 had an ATM card in 2005 and used it six to eight times a month. Not surprisingly, ATMs get their busiest workouts on Fridays.

In the 1990s, banks began charging fees to use ATMs, a profitable move for them and an annoying one for consumers. Consumers were also faced with an increase in ATM crimes and scams. Robbers preyed on people using money machines in poorly lit or otherwise unsafe locations, and criminals also devised ways to steal customers’ PINs (personal identification numbers), even setting up fake money machines to capture the information. In response, city and state governments passed legislation such as New York’s ATM Safety Act in 1996, which required banks to install such things as surveillance cameras, reflective mirrors and locked entryways for their ATMs.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Diana Nyad, 64, makes record swim from Cuba to Florida

On September 2, 2013, 64-year-old Diana Nyad becomes the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage for protection. Nyad completed the 110-mile swim from Havana to Key West, through the jellyfish-and shark-infested waters of the Straits of Florida, ...read more

Michael Jackson earns his 12th and final solo #1 with “You Are Not Alone”

Pop star Michael Jackson's song “You Are Not Alone” reaches number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100—his 12th #1 hit.  Jackson’s incredible run of chart-topping hits began in 1972 with the release of his fifth single, “Ben,” from the motion picture of the same name. A touching ballad ...read more

Vietnam declares its independence from France

Hours after Japan’s surrender in World War II, Vietnamese communist Ho Chi Minh declares the independence of Vietnam from France. The proclamation paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence in declaring, “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, ...read more

The Battle of Actium

At the Battle of Actium, off the western coast of Greece, Roman leader Octavian wins a decisive victory against the forces of Roman Mark Antony and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Before their forces suffered final defeat, Antony and Cleopatra broke though the enemy lines and fled to ...read more

This Day In History: Japan surrenders, bringing an end to WWII

Japan surrenders, bringing an end to WWII

Aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrenders to the Allies, bringing an end to World War II. By the summer of 1945, the defeat of Japan was a foregone conclusion. The Japanese navy and air force were destroyed. The Allied naval blockade of Japan and intensive ...read more

Great Fire of London begins

In the early morning hours, the Great Fire of London breaks out in the house of King Charles II’s baker on Pudding Lane near London Bridge. It soon spread to Thames Street, where warehouses filled with combustibles and a strong easterly wind transformed the blaze into an inferno. ...read more

Vietnamese president and communist icon Ho Chi Minh dies

President Ho Chi Minh of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam dies of a heart attack in Hanoi. North Vietnamese officials announced his death the next day. Ho Chi Minh had been the heart and soul of Vietnamese communism since the earliest days of the movement. Born in 1890, he ...read more

Navy aviator George H.W. Bush and his squadron attacked

On September 2, 1944, future President George Herbert Walker Bush is serving as a torpedo bomber pilot in the Pacific theater of World War II when his squadron is attacked by Japanese anti-aircraft guns. Bush was forced to bail out of the plane over the ocean.  According to the ...read more

Chinese miners are massacred in Wyoming Territory

On September 2, 1885, 150 white miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, brutally attack their Chinese coworkers, killing 28, wounding 15 others, and driving several hundred more out of town. The miners working in the Union Pacific coal mine had been struggling to unionize and strike for ...read more

Union general George B. McClellan is restored to full command

President Abraham Lincoln reluctantly restores Union General George B. McClellan to full command after General John Pope’s disaster at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on August 29 and 30. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, saw much of his army transferred ...read more

Congress founds U.S. Treasury

The United States Treasury Department is founded on September 2, 1789.  The institution’s roots can be traced to 1775, when America’s leaders were looking for ways to fund the Revolutionary War. Their solution–issuing cash that doubled as redeemable “bills of credit”–raised ...read more