New year's resolution: Use your mobile as an ATM?

Except for the cash withdrawal....

Except for the cash withdrawal....

From next January, mobile users will be able to turn their handsets into portable ATMs – except for using them to make cash withdrawals.

Two UK banks and four mobile operators, including Vodafone, will launch the new service early next month. Within a year, the new company, MobileATM, expects that half of the UK's banks will offer the service.

MobileATM is a joint venture between telecoms integrator and systems supplier Morse Communications and Link, which is owned by 22 financial institutions and is responsible for all cross-bank cash machine traffic in the UK.

Alistair Lukeis, MD of MobileATM and director of Morse Mobile, said: "It will link every bank and card issuer in the UK. It will look just like an ATM on your mobile screen and, eventually, you'll be able to do everything you can do on an actual cash machine.

"It's a simple phone and PIN system to get a session - not like the internet with several layers of code and passwords. It's a pull service - you can use it whenever you want."

Initially, the service will allow users to check their balance and carry out top-ups of mobile phone credit. It will eventually be extended to allow users to access lists of recent transactions, extend overdrafts and transfer cash to other accounts.

Lukeis gave examples of the uses of the new system: "Imagine your teenage daughter phones and runs out of credit at midnight. A couple of clicks and she's back on. And we all know the embarrassment of going up to buy a round of drinks and crossing our fingers that the transaction will go through," he said.

The service has been two years in the making due to the large number of organisations that needed to be involved and consulted. Lukeis added he has immediate plans to take the system to the rest of the world.

"Starting next year, we are going to take this to as many geographical areas as we can. It will be a boxed mobile ATM system that can work around the world."

Users will have to register and wait two days to receive a unique activation number by post, with MobileATM makeing its money out by taking a small cut of the mobile fees.

A service launched in August by the Royal Bank of Scotland, allowing mobile top-ups through its ATMs, has seen one million transactions so far.