Cash me outside

I have a bone to pick with ATMs. Cash machines. Money machines. Whatever you want to call them, I am annoyed with them. Because we live in a cashless society, right? We should be able to use our debit cards everywhere, and usually we can. Except when my kids need some weird amount of money for a school thing. Like my son who needs $10 for his subscription to a math website. And my daughter who needs $15 for a sports event. And don’t get me started on the endless gold coin donation days and sausage sizzles and mufti events and, and, and.

So when I need these weird and inconvenient amounts of cash, I go to the ATM to get it. Because the bank is open strange hours that are not compatible with human life, and also I have this nagging feeling that they don’t like customers to come in and withdraw money at the teller window even though it is MY money I’m withdrawing, not theirs. Plus the ATMs in my area are located in frustrating locations where you have to park several kilometres away or possibly in the next suburb over and walk there, because there are never, ever carparks nearby. Ever.

So when I finally make it to the ATM with the intention of withdrawing some strange amount of money for my kids’ school things, I’m faced with a quandary. I need $10, but the ATM only dispenses $20 notes. So I have to withdraw $20 and then I have to go buy a block of chocolate to break the $20. What is this madness? Why can’t the ATM dispense $10 and $5 notes? I want to know the answer to this question. A Google search told me that banks have done surveys which indicate that the $20 note is the most common currency. I have never seen these alleged surveys, nor do I know which banks allegedly put on these surveys. But does it occur to anyone else that the reason we carry so many $20 notes around is because that’s what the ATMs dispense, so we don’t get a choice?

The other day I discovered an ATM inside one of my local supermarkets. And, joy of joys, it was even an ATM from the bank I use! So I could withdraw money without paying that delightful $1 “convenience fee” or whatever they’re calling it nowadays. I happily wandered up and put in my card, and asked for $20, figuring I was in the best place to break it by buying my usual bar of chocolate.

THIS ATM ONLY DISPENSES $50 NOTES flashed up on the screen.

I screamed silently inside, then took a deep breath and withdrew $50. I went and got TWO blocks of chocolate, went to the till, and handed over the chocolate and the $50 note to pay my $8 bill.

“May I please have one $10 note, two $5 notes, and two $1 coins?” I asked the cashier.

“Sorry, I’ve only got $20 notes,” she replied.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

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