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New York City: Cash, ATMs, and the MTA

Categories : Cash does not require a technology infrastructure, Cash ensures competition among payment instruments, Cash is available to all users, Costs of cash versus costs of electronic payment instruments
February 13, 2023
Tags : Access to cash, ATMs, Card payments, Digital payments, US
Banks are closing 24-hour ATMs early in New York City for “safety and security” reasons. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects the OMNY contactless payment solution will reduce the amount of cash it gets from riders.
Manuel A. Bautista-González

Ph.D. in U.S. History, Columbia University in the City of New York

Post-Doctoral Researcher in Global Correspondent Banking, 1870-2000 – Mexico and South America, University of Oxford

This post is also available in: Spanish

New York City Banks Close ATMs Early

Banks, including Chase, TD Bank, Citi, and Citizens, have closed 24-hour ATMs in New York City as early as 10 or 11 PM to keep out homeless people since the summer of 2022. Some banks have hired security guards to sit inside vestibules in the early evening.

New Yorkers disapprove of the banks’ decision to reduce ATM operation hours:

Contactless Payments: “It’s OMNY Time” 

In 2019, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) launched OMNY (One Metro New York). This new contactless payment platform allows riders of buses and subways to pay for transit with the tap of a credit card, debit card, or smartphone when they board.

The solution is similar to South Korea’s U-Pass (launched in 1995), Hong Kong’s Octopus card (1997), London’s Oyster card (2003), and Chicago’s Ventra (2013). OMNY will be mandatory sometime in 2024, when the MetroCard is phased out.

OMNY readers already operate at all 472 subway stations and all MTA buses. As of February 2022, 23% of all subway and bus riders paid using OMNY, and less than 1% of those riders used the physical OMNY card.


The MTA expects OMNY to reduce the amount of cash it receives from the public. In 2019, the MTA collected $1.5 billion in transit fares in cash and claimed to have spent 13% of that amount on processing, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

The MTA stopped accepting cash at subway booths for safety and health reasons related to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Concerns: Consumers’ Choice, Privacy, Contingency

“Please rest assured we will not retire MetroCard until we figure this out. We are committed to cash. We will always be committed to cash. And we will make sure this system is fully operational before we retire anything.” –  Sarah Meyer, MTA chief customer officer

OMNY tracks and stores users’ travel information for seven days (unregistered users) and up to 12 months (for registered users), creating concerns about riders’ privacy:

The Verge reported in 2020 that “experts say the OMNY payment scheme is rife with problems, based on the limited information about the system made public in its terms of service and privacy policy. The collection of significant amounts of information from users, including smartphone device identifiers and location, which, coupled with payment and transportation data, could be used to map out riders’ patterns of life in minute detail and create a privacy nightmare.”

This post is also available in: Spanish