What should it be called: ATM or Cash Machine?
July 24, 2015 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Explaining researching that uses data point around ATM/cash machines for both American and international audiences. In the US, people know them as ATMs. In the UK, they are often called cash machines, or cash points. I can only pick one for this work: which should I pick?

For the purposes of this, I am unable to create two products for the different audiences. I just want to use the term which will work best with the widest audience. My Google-fu hasn't helped.
As you answer, I'd be curious to know what region of the world you are coming from!
posted by troytroy to Writing & Language (26 answers total)
I don't think anyone in the US would be confused by what a "cash machine" is.
posted by griphus at 1:54 PM on July 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

Corollary: in my experience, pretty much everyone in the UK is familiar with what an ATM is.
posted by terretu at 1:56 PM on July 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

To be more clear: "ATM" is totally meaningless if you're not familiar with the term (which based on what you're saying could be a risk in the UK) and I've never heard anyone use "cash point" here so "cash machine" would be the most mutually intelligible option.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on July 24, 2015

I am in the UK and would say "cashpoint" but would understand perfectly well if you said "ATM" or "cash machine".
posted by intensitymultiply at 1:57 PM on July 24, 2015

From UK, in US: ATM is more recognisable in the UK these days (thanks to exposure to American sources) than cash point / cash machine / hole in the wall in the US. It's not the preferred term, but it'll be understood without glossing.
posted by holgate at 1:58 PM on July 24, 2015

You could also go for "automated teller" or "automated teller machine". More risk of alienating younger people who aren't familiar with what the acronym stands for; less risk of alienating people who don't know the acronym but could put together the concepts and know what you mean. Depends on your audience, I guess.
posted by terretu at 1:58 PM on July 24, 2015

USian here; I'd probably understand "cash machine" in context, though without sufficient context I might think it means a Coinstar-type thing, or if I wasn't thinking about it maybe a cash register.
posted by NMcCoy at 1:59 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just to be a contrarian Canadian: bank machine is the term here, sometimes ABM.
posted by scruss at 2:06 PM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'd avoid using ATM since it's an abbreviation. Even if a non-native English speaker has a working knowledge of English, they may not be familiar with the abbreviation. I have been to Tunisia and made the mistake of asking for an ATM and getting a blank stare - but they understood "cash machine" right away.
posted by something something at 2:08 PM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Your answer may be in your question: ATM/cash machines
Can't you use that? Maybe on first reference, then cash machines from then on.
posted by sageleaf at 2:19 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd recognise cash machine or cashpoint or ATM. I'd be quite confused by 'automated teller' though - we don't really use the word 'teller' in the UK.
posted by kadia_a at 2:24 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

UK proofreader here. I'd use ATM consistently throughout, as international English-speaking audiences are largely familiar with the term despite regional variances. However, I'd also use the full term on the first mention or in the introduction before defaulting to the acronym and provide a mini glossary for the avoidance of doubt at the same time, along the lines of:

Explaining researching that uses data point around automated teller machines (ATMs, also known as cashpoints, cash machines or bank machines) for both American and international audiences.
posted by peteyjlawson at 2:28 PM on July 24, 2015 [17 favorites]

U.S.: cash machine would have totally slipped under my radar as a perfectly normal word, although paradoxically I don't think anyone says it at all in my circles.
posted by univac at 4:38 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

US PNW here; "cash point" sounds foreign but "cash machine" doesn't. Like Univac, I don't know if anyone actually says it, but somehow the term is totally familiar anyway.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:57 PM on July 24, 2015

Los Angeles, California here. ATM is native to me. I would understand cash machine given the proper context (for instance, "I withdrew money from the cash machine"), although if someone asked me where the nearest cash machine was, I might think they'd temporarily forgotten the term "ATM" or something. "Cash Point" is meaningless to me.
posted by erst at 5:01 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

In the US, "cash point" basically sounds like some sort of branded service. Either "ATM" or "cash machine" makes sense to people here.

Oddly, I also say "bank machine," though I have almost no Canadian exposure.
posted by Miko at 5:57 PM on July 24, 2015

I say bank machine and ATM, I would understand cash machine or cash point (I read a lot of British mysteries) but both strike me as definitely foreign. Cash machine is clearer, though. I am also Canadian.
posted by jeather at 6:23 PM on July 24, 2015

Australian, and the vast majority of us say ATM.

I'm sitting here trying to remember if I've heard anyone call it a cash machine or not. Can't honestly remember, so it must be pretty rare. I know that before reading this thread, if someone asked me where the nearest cash machine was, I'd be confused (but would eventually figure it out). I've never heard it called cash point or bank machine here.
posted by pianissimo at 7:00 PM on July 24, 2015

We say cash machine and ATM interchangeably here in the northern part of the US. I think cash machine has the edge on being understood by a wider audience.
posted by missmerrymack at 8:04 PM on July 24, 2015

Midwesterner. I've only ever heard ATM but I would understand cash machine if there's good context (as mentioned above out of context I'd be thinking coinstar before ATM). Other words are completely foreign.
posted by Aranquis at 8:08 PM on July 24, 2015

Nthing that "bank machine" while possibly not in common usage in either place, is most likely to be immediately understood regardless of context and audience.
posted by Aleyn at 8:57 PM on July 24, 2015

Australian. We say ATM, but there are many Brits/Euros here too (so recent arrivals will ask where the closest Cashpoint is). If I were writing a document for an international audience, I'd probably introduce it as ["Automatic Teller Machines", also refered to as "Cashpoints" or "Cash machines", hereafter in this document refered to as "ATMs"]
posted by Diag at 9:48 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

IIRC, "cash point" actually was a branded service of one of the primary UK banks (Barclays?). Their machines were called CashPoints and the moniker was generalised. A one-off sentence up front explaining ATM/cash machine should suffice to permit you to choose either without a hitch.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:51 PM on July 24, 2015

Cash machine is definitely most generic, least colloquial word to use for an audience in England and Wales. I don't have intuitions about Scotland or Ireland. ATM is definitely understood though.

And if by international audience you mean second language English speakers, there's no competition. Much as the British Isles is the only place I've been where WC is not immediately understood, I think it's safe to say ATM has a much wider global reach than cash machine. The most frequent colloquial term I can think of in Europe other than ATM would be a variation on bankomat (like laundromat). So cash machine's not going to be intuitive there.
posted by ambrosen at 3:06 AM on July 25, 2015

Thanks everyone for your input! We will likely try to use an image of one for the infographic, and be such to have some point of clarification so that there is no confusion.
posted by troytroy at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2015

Oh, just another data point for you... I was in the Yucatan in Mexico and they were labelled "ATM." Granted, I was in a heavily international tourist zone (and for some reason my party kept getting mistaken for Italian, haven't figured that one out yet). But still, "ATM" was on the neon signs.
posted by erst at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2015

« Older Japan Itinerary: I'm Stuck   |   Euthanizing Tropical Fish Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.