Cash card, 1969

NatWest Group History 100 object 7: cash dispensing machine card issued by Broomhill branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, 1969

The arrival and growing use of ATMs from 1967 onwards was one of a number of responses by the banks to the development of the 24-hour society. People’s lives today exhibit more varied timetables, or no timetable at all. Rigid working times, opening hours and early closing days have given way to a growing expectation that anything can be done at any time.

Although neither NatWest nor the Royal Bank of Scotland was the first British bank to introduce ATMs, NatWest was the first to go in for them in a big way. Britain’s first cash dispenser was installed in summer 1967, and by spring 1969 NatWest had 75 machines; more than twice as many as all the other clearing banks put together. The Royal Bank of Scotland’s English constituent Williams & Glyn’s had 12 machines, placing it joint second on the list, despite being much smaller than all the other clearing banks.

NatWest was the first to go in for them in a big way

The early machines were quite different from a modern ATM. Customers who wished to use the service were issued with a set of punched cards like the one illustrated here. To withdraw cash, they would put a card in the slot, type in their personal number and receive £10 in cash. The card would be retained by the machine, processed manually by bank staff and returned to the customer for re-use.

More sophisticated machines were introduced in the late 1970s – the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Cashline and NatWest’s Servicetill – allowing customers to view their account balances, withdraw different amounts of cash and undertake other tasks such as ordering statements or chequebooks. Unlike in the first generation of cash machines, the card was returned to the customer at the end of the transaction.

Soon afterwards, machines began to be installed in non-branch locations; the Royal Bank’s first was at Ravenscraig Steelworks in 1980. This marked the beginning of a new development in the use of ATMs. Their 24-hour availability had already made them an appealing addition to normal branch counter-service, but now the expanding network offered further benefits. Machines were installed in workplaces, train stations, airports and shops all over the country, meaning that customers could now use their facilities wherever, as well as whenever, suited them.