For decades now, ATMs have made it easy for us to get a hold of our money. Now they can help us save money, too. A new breed of in-store automatic teller machines are offering coupons that you can use right there in the store where you plan to shop.

The Australian grocery chain Coles is pioneering the concept, in partnership with the ATM software company KAL. After introducing the program in its Coles Express fuel stations earlier this year, Coles has announced it will begin rolling out the coupon offerings to its supermarket ATMs as well.

The way it works is, Coles customers who use in-store ATMs to withdraw cash, see a popup window that offers them a choice of coupons that the machine will dispense along with their cash. And they’re good coupons, too – 15% off a fresh meat purchase, $2.50 off a 1.5 liter bottle of water, $8 off a 6-pack of Heineken beer (a U.S. dollar is worth only slightly less than an Australian dollar, so $8 off a six-pack is still a high-value offering, regardless of the exchange rate).

In its fuel stations, Coles said more than half of ATM users were taking advantage of the coupons, and there were thousands more ATM transactions than before. “Customers told us they really liked the choice and being in control of their own rewards,” said Coles executive Kirsten Romanin. “We will refresh the offers for customers regularly and hope to expand the type of offers available over time to keep them exciting and relevant for all.”


Oh, but don’t forget the fine print in the terms and services: “Standard ATM charges apply.”

Yes, you essentially have to pay for the privilege of getting those coupons. What’s the use of a $2.50 coupon for water, when you have to pay a $2.50 ATM fee to get it? The idea is that the value of most coupons will exceed the ATM fee, in order to encourage more people to go ahead and use the ATM when they need it. “ATM users are charged a fee to use the ATM, but the redemption value of the coupon is far greater than the surcharge fee,” KAL executive Steve Hensley told Coupons in the News. Because of that, “the redemption rate is extraordinary. And because the redemption rate is so high, it allows Coles to sell the program to its product suppliers.”

So you might want to skip the water and go for the beer – even after paying the ATM fee, you still end up saving $5.50 on that Heineken six-pack. And some shoppers have figured out that they can also get coupons by paying a dollar to check their account balance, so they come out ahead no matter what.

So, for the higher-value coupons at least, it’s a win-win-win for everyone – the bank gets its fee, Coles gets you to buy more stuff, and you get to save money on your groceries.

Of course, none of these savings are possible for us, unless you plan on doing your grocery shopping in Australia any time soon. “I don’t know why it wouldn’t work in the U.S.,” Hensley said. But “one of the major challenges that would impede progress on this is that the ATMs in the retail locations need to be running the right ATM software to support this.” And unfortunately, no ATM providers in the U.S. currently do so. “Anyone could replicate the Coles experience by converting their ATM software to KAL and then implementing the coupon functionality,” Hensley said. “Of course we would be happy to do that,” he added helpfully.

So if you’d like some coupons with your cash, you can ask your grocery store’s ATM provider to consider changing their software. And if you don’t have any luck, you can always head Down Under. Forget “throwing another shrimp on the barbie” – thanks to those $8 off ATM coupons, there will be plenty of cheap beer there for everyone!

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