Reviews

ATM App Review: How It Works & How Much We Earned

ATM App Review
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The ATM App’s website promises that users can earn “at least $10 in their first month” in exchange for interacting with brands. We tested the app for two weeks but did not get paid anything, due to a combination of the app’s low pay rate and its very high minimum cash-out. Taking these two factors into account, it’s unlikely that we would have hit the $10 mark even with continued use.

This ATM App review goes over exactly how much you can expect to make and what’s required to successfully earn rewards. In addition, we evaluated a number of the company’s most optimistic marketing claims to see whether they stand up to scrutiny based on our experience with the app.

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Pros:
  • Simple, easy-to-use interface.
  • Has the potential to change the way consumers get rewarded for their attention.
  • The built-in investing platform makes it easy to increase your overall returns, allowing you to grow your earnings beyond what you're paid by the app.
Cons:
  • Most of the earning opportunities require you to spend money.
  • The first $20 you accumulate is permanently locked to your ATM account.
  • The app's main feature — a passive income mechanism that lets users share in the company's earnings — is not yet available and there is no release date.

ATM App Basics

ATM is a money-making mobile app developed by Michael Gleason (of MIT) and Walter Cruttenden (the current chairman of Acorns). It allows users to earn cash rewards by completing offers, which they can either redeem for cash or invest via the embedded investing platform. 

Confusingly, the “ATM” acronym doesn’t refer to an automatic teller machine, but rather “Ant Transaction Machine, Inc,” the name of the company that created the app.

“Ants” are the way the app refers to its users, and the motif shows up in everything from the main icon to the background images and references to “ant colony dividends.” 

Screenshot of the ATM App homepage.
As you can see in this screenshot of the app’s homepage, the company really leans into the ant colony theme.

ATM’s main focus is referring users to other companies. When you sign up, you’ll get messages to check out other products and services, and they’ll offer a cash reward in your ATM account to encourage your patronage. 

ATM says that when the platform grows to 1 million “ants” (users), that milestone will unlock a unique feature called colony dividends. This allows the app to aggregate depersonalized data about the community as a whole, monetize it, and share the profits among all users. 

ATM clearly states that the company will never sell your personal info, and that “none of your data will ever be used without permission.” However, simply using the app gives them permission to use and monetize that data for advertisers, just in a “depersonalized” way. 

ATM App has the following functions

  • Brand Matching. This is where you first hear about brands and earn a few cents for reading their brief “about” message. 
  • Brand Messenger. Once you’ve been introduced to a brand, they’ll make you an offer (usually worth $1 to $20) to use their product or service. Showing interest in a brand (by taking up their offer) can lead to more interactions. 
  • Add Data. By answering personal questions, you help the app identify which brands you might be interested in. In theory, the more questions you answer, the more opportunities you have to unlock a brand to match with. 
  • Earn More. At the bottom of the app, you can view all possible brands and choose to interact with ones you haven’t matched with yet. This section also includes stand-alone coupons for popular retailers for new users/subscribers. 
  • Grow. ATM has an embedded investment platform where you can either roll over your cash rewards into an investment or make deposits and invest your own money.
  • Wallet. You can withdraw the rewards you’ve earned above $20 (see No. 3 in the list below). You can also use the digital wallet to view all the transactions you’ve made in and out of the app. 

Five Key Facts About ATM App

Here are the five most important things to know about using the ATM App before you sign up. 

  1. You have to provide personal info. You are required to provide your name, email, birthday, gender, physical address, and actual phone number when signing up. VOIP numbers (like Google Voice) are not allowed.
  2. ATM collects a lot of data. If you enable tracking, ATM will also collect your geolocation, cookies, and any information third parties already know about you. It uses this information to tailor its brand suggestions. 
  3. There’s a minimum account balance. The first $20 you earn remains in your account at all times as a minimum balance. You can only cash out or invest whatever you earn above and beyond $20. 
  4. Payments are issued on a delay. Because ATM needs to verify with the brands that you completed each offer, payments can be delayed for up to 20 days after completion. 
  5. You must link ATM to a bank account. The only way to get paid on ATM is through an ACH direct deposit, so you need to link to your bank in order to cash-out. 

Ways to Earn Money With ATM App

If you’ve used other cash-back or rewards apps before, you might think ATM is just one more option in a crowded field. However, their model is slightly different from competitors like Swagbucks

The first way you can make money is through the “Brand Matching” feature. Here, you simply read a quick intro about a company and earn a few cents for your trouble. After you’re introduced to a brand, you get a “cash reward” offer from the company to try their product out.

ATM App brand matching offer.
Brand Matching offers (like the one shown above) are easy, but they don’t pay much.

Because ATM is a referral-based app, you often need to spend money to make money. When The Ways To Wealth’s team looked at all 68 different brand rewards offered to us, 78% required some amount of payment in order to receive the ATM cash reward. 

That means you could only earn rewards without making a purchase on the remaining 22% of offers. 

Here were the types of free offers we were shown during testing: 

  • Connect your bank account to a budgeting app.
  • Get a quote for new car, life, or other kind of insurance.
  • Apply for a loan.
  • Create brand new accounts on other survey or cash-back sites.
  • Apply for a job.
  • Rent out storage space via Neighbor.

Altogether, completing every free offer would have earned us $40 cash-back. 

The majority of offers required some payment or signing up for a subscription to unlock. To give you an idea of the kinds of offers you might find, we organized them into the following categories:

  • Create a new investment account and invest a certain amount of money ($50, $100, etc.).
  • Purchase or trade cryptocurrency.
  • Subscribe to a service (to streaming platforms, Costco, meal plans, cosmetic treatments, etc.).
  • Switch cell phone or internet service providers.
  • Enroll in an online course.
  • Make any purchase on the seller’s website.
  • Sign up for a new bank account and make a deposit.

With these offers, we could have theoretically earned $411. However, earning that amount would have required us to spend a significant amount of money. 

For example, we crunched the numbers for 20 offers where the cost-of-completion was clearly stated and found that we would have needed to spend $1,225 to earn $146 in rewards. 

ATM also has a subsection within “Earn More” just for coupons and deals. This section doesn’t add much value, however. Completing these offers won’t get you any reward cash. Plus, I didn’t see any coupons that were exclusive to ATM. Most retailers or restaurants had the same coupons I saw on ATM advertised on the front page of their own sites. 

On one final note, I was disappointed with how frequently I got error messages when trying to complete offers. Sometimes, I’d click on a link immediately after ATM offered it to me, and was met with a “sorry, this offer has expired” error message.

Of the six offers I actually wanted to complete, two of them gave me errors when I attempted to fulfill them.

Getting Paid

ATM App keeps things simple when it comes to cashing out your rewards. You can either send the money directly to your linked bank account, or you can invest your rewards in the investing portion of the app. 

However, there is one major caveat: you cannot cash-out or invest your first $20 in earnings.

That’s right — your first $20 is locked up as a permanent account balance. ATM explains that this feature “protects the community from fraud,” but it also means they don’t have to pay out to people who only briefly start to use the app and abandon it.

I wasn’t able to test the cashing-out portion of the app, as I couldn’t earn more than the $3.59 I earned from “brand matching dividends.” I did complete four offers with brands, but since ATM can take up to 20 days to deposit rewards into your account, I’m still waiting to see those earnings. 

The investing portion of the app requires an application, which includes resubmitting your personal details, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your citizenship status, and answering a few disclosure questions. These questions are presumably for tax and anti-money laundering purposes.

I unfortunately wasn’t able to test the investment portion of the app, either. I kept getting an error message when I input my (correct) personal information, and customer service wasn’t able to solve the problem — they simply told me that I must have entered incorrect details.

ATM App Investment Account signing.
I was never able to access the investment platform.

Evaluating ATM App’s Marketing Claims

ATM makes a lot of bold, confusing, and sometimes too-good-to-be-true claims in its online marketing. Their Google Play/App Store and website descriptions all make some promises that we wanted to look into further.  

The statements below were taken verbatim from the company’s website and/or app store descriptions in March, 2022.

Promise #1: “You can earn a minimum of $10 the first month if you login and participate with our brand partners for a couple of minutes each day.”

Participating usually means showing up and playing along. But of all the available tasks within the ATM App, only 22% of those we saw could be completed without making a purchase. 

Since you earn roughly 15 cents for each “brand matching” opportunity (based on our testing), you could earn at most $4.50 from brand matching rewards alone (at a pace of one offer per day for 30 days). This means you’d have to complete some actual (paid) offers to earn that “minimum.” 

But because you aren’t able to withdraw the first $20 you make, you need to accumulate $30 in rewards to actually cash out $10. 

To do that without spending any money, you’d need to complete every free offer available.

Promise #2: “You can earn $40, $60, $80, or $100 or more per month if you engage in the ATM rewards program.”

Because we’ve already covered the “free” tasks, let’s see how much money you’d have to spend in order to make any of the above. 

Based on the offers we were shown, to make $40, you’d have to spend a minimum of $27 (for subscriptions or initial deposits for new bank accounts). If you wanted to hit that $100 earning mark, you’d need to spend at least $135.

In some cases, you can recoup that spending — such as a deposit for opening a new account. 

Promise #3: “You can expect to earn $100 to $1,000 or more per year with the ATM app™ based on your level of engagement.”

We found no evidence to support these numbers. The maximum earning potential, combining every offer any member of The Ways To Wealth’s team saw, was $466 — and you’d need to spend thousands of dollars to earn that amount.  

Promise #4: “There are both active and passive earning opportunities including rewards and cash back.”

As of the date of publication, there are no passive income opportunities on the ATM App aside from investing your rewards into the stock market. You can read about brands and complete offers, but both of those are active earning methods. 

ATM’s plan for colony dividends — the passive income earning opportunity they’re primarily marketing — has not yet launched, and no specific details about it are available. 

Promise #5: “In addition, you can earn passive micro-income once our colony reaches 1 million ants or more.”

The term “micro-income” is very new, and basically only exists when talking about ATM App and another app created by the same duo (Blast). It’s a weird marketing term that’s presumably trying to make the concept of dividends more understandable to new, youthful investors. 

As described above, the colony dividends will pay out when ATM App can aggregate and monetize the collective data of at least one million “ants” (users). 

Unfortunately, this means the first 999,999 people are handing over their data for very, very little — or nothing, if the app never reaches critical mass. 

As of this publication, ATM is still hundreds of thousands of downloads away from this figure, and even with that number in mind, it’s unclear what users the company would count in the 1 million figure. For example, will a user who downloads the app and earns 15 cents with one Brand Match count towards the 1 million mark? 

Additionally, there’s no guarantee that the company will actually be able to profitably monetize its user data once it reaches that threshold, meaning that these dividends may never materialize regardless of the app’s popularity.

Of course, the opposite is true as well: it could all work out according to plan. The point is that you shouldn’t bank on it, because there are too many unknowns to invest your time and energy based on the limited information the company has provided so far.

ATM App: Final Verdict

If this app takes off the way Ant Transaction Machines, Inc hopes it will, I think it will be a revolutionary and absolutely unique way to earn money online. 

As modern internet users, we’re all used to giving away our data for pennies on the dollar, or using free services in exchange for our data. 

The idea of seeing recurring cash passively hit my account, just for being a user who’s answered a few questions or subscribed to a few services, is intriguing. 

But the ATM App, in its current state, is mostly useless. It was buggy, uninteresting and required a lot of cash upfront in order to get most of the valuable rewards. I felt no desire to log in every day just to earn 15 cents, then realize I’d need to spend $100 to earn $5 in rewards. 

See also: The best sites like Swagbucks for earning online rewards.

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Hillary Swetz reviews personal finance products, apps and services for The Ways To Wealth. Connect with her on Twitter @hillaryswetz and read more of her work on her frugal living website Homegrown Hillary.

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