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Plan for SunTrust to open branch, ATMs at Hartsfield-Jackson under review

A measure that would allow SunTrust to open a bank branch in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International and put ATMs around the airport is on hold after a city council committee vote.

The city council transportation committee questioned whether the airport should be considering a bank branch, or whether ATMs would suffice.

The airport invited banks to compete for the lease as its contract with Wells Fargo was expiring, but SunTrust was the only company that responded. Wells Fargo said its ATM revenues had declined and the bank operation at the airport was not generating a profit. It did not submit a proposal for the new contract.

Airport bank locations have struggled amid a declining use of cash, which has made it less profitable for banks to operate at the airport. The proliferation of credit card use, low-cost card processing services like Square, as well as PayPal and Venmo have made going to the bank and withdrawing cash a less urgent need for many.

“It was sort of a change in trends,” said Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Roosevelt Council.

Committee member Amir Farokhi asked the airport manager if the ATM contract could be separated from the bank branch contract, or if the bank branch requirement could be eliminated. “Can you make more money off of banks clamoring to have their ATMs in the airport?” he asked.

Council said the branch offers banks an opportunity to gain exposure, and it’s a service for airport-goers, airport businesses and employees who need to make change, cash checks or handle other transactions at a branch.

On Fridays, “you’ll see a line of people, mostly employees, that are there actually cashing their checks,” Council said.

The proposal is for the SunTrust branch to replace the Wells Fargo branch that closed at Hartsfield-Jackson last August. The SunTrust bank at the airport would open about six to nine months after approval from the city. SunTrust would also put at least 16 ATMs around the Atlanta airport, replacing the 10 Wells Fargo ATMs at the airport today.

But city council transportation committee member Carla Smith moved to hold the measure, seconded by committee chair Andre Dickens. After Farokhi’s questions, Dickens said he was interested in “taking a step back and look at this one more time.”

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