Banks cut number of ATMs in Norway

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A reduction in the use of cash in Norway is prompting Norwegian banks to reduce the number of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) they have spread out around the country. They were installed to steer customers away from expensive bank branches, but now the banks think the ATMs also have become too expensive to operate.

Called minibanker in Norway, the ATMs were placed at convenient locations, often as compensation for closed bank branches. Now the ATMs are becoming harder to find, especially in smaller towns. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday that there are no ATMs at all anymore in the Vestsida district of Porsgrunn, for example, and people needing cash have to walk over a bridge to get some on the other side of town.

Per Halvorsen of Sparebank 1 in Telemark said the relatively large regional bank has no plans to replace or add any new ATMs. “There will undoubtedly be fewer minibanker, but we won’t remove all of them,” he told NRK. “The reason is that we’ve had a considerable reduction in minibank transactions the past five to 10 years.”

The banks note that customers can get extra cash in retail stores when they use their bank (debit) cards to pay for purchases. Use of cash in general, though, has declined, with Norwegians among the world’s biggest users of bank cards even for small amounts.

“Use of cash is something that both the banks and the authorities want to reduce,” Halvorsen said. “That’s because the use of cash often is tied to criminal acts and the black market.”

Some consumers still prefer cash, though, for budgeting and privacy purposes. Not everyone wants to pay the fees often attached to bank card transactions, or leave an electronic record of private purchases so that retail marketing officials can track every transaction or record what customers buy.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund