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What is a Portable ATM?

John Lister
John Lister

A portable ATM, or automated teller machine, is mainly designed for use on a temporary basis. This could include use at sporting events or festivals where customers do not have easy access to fixed-position ATMs. In most cases, a portable ATM works over a wireless communications network with appropriate security safeguards.

A portable ATM generally does not need any sort of wired data connection. Instead, the only technical requirement is access to a power supply, which can usually be a standard power outlet. However, most suppliers will work with the event organizer to find a suitable location for the machine, with a particular emphasis on lighting and security so that customers can get money out safely even after dark.

There is a wide variety of designs for the housing of such ATMs. Some are as simple as a small marquee to protect the machines from rain or more extreme weather. In other cases, the ATMs may come inside a trailer or other portable cabin building.

A woman withdrawing cash from a portable ATM.
A woman withdrawing cash from a portable ATM.

The ATM communicates with the electronic banking system via wireless telecoms. This is a separate network to phone network, which means it is not affected by local telephone use. This can be important as mobile phone networks often experience problems at events such as festivals, when use is considerably higher than at other times and places. The communications system used by the ATMs will be encrypted much more securely than standard voice or data wireless use.

Portable ATMs typically only need a power source to operate.
Portable ATMs typically only need a power source to operate.

Although suppliers refer to "portable ATM rental," there is often no charge to have the machines at an event. This is because the supplier makes its money by charging a service fee to the people who withdraw cash. This is deducted from the customers' bank accounts.

The most common set up is for a portable ATM to be delivered by the supplier in an empty state. The supplier will then hire a local security company take cash to the venue to load the machine. This company will then collect any remaining cash at the end of the event.

A company offering a portable ATM service will normally require a minimum number of people to be attending the event for which the ATM is rented. This is usually in the range of 5,000. This is to make sure the ATM gets enough use that the company is not missing out on higher revenues elsewhere. People organizing smaller events will normally be asked to provide a deposit that may or may not be refundable, depending on the level of transactions reached during the event.

Discussion Comments


This may not make much sense, but I would be less trusting of a portable ATM. You read about people setting up cameras and doing other things around ATMs so they can steal card ID numbers. I feel more secure with the regular machines.


People complain about the fees they pay to get money at a teller machine, but the truth of the matter is that nobody is forcing them to stop at the machines and withdraw money.

The companies providing the machines, whether they are portable ATMs or fixed ones, are providing a service to the public that makes getting money more convenient, and the companies expect to make a little money in turn. They are not setting up these machines because they want to be nice and make your life easier.


The ATMs that charge customers a fee for withdrawing their own money are such a ripoff. Why should I have to pay to withdraw my money? The situations is really bad when you are somewhere and desperately need cash and there is not one of your bank's money machines anywhere near.

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    • A woman withdrawing cash from a portable ATM.
      By: WavebreakmediaMicro
      A woman withdrawing cash from a portable ATM.
    • Portable ATMs typically only need a power source to operate.
      By: L. Shat
      Portable ATMs typically only need a power source to operate.