Imagine driving amid pristine mountains dotting the Pakistan-China border, over 15,000 feet above sea level, and needing cash urgently. There is no need to panic, as the “World’s Highest ATM” is in the vicinity.
It will not just address your currency crunch but accept your bill payments too.
The ATM, claimed the World’s Highest by National Bank of Pakistan, is located at Khunjerab Pass on the mostly snow-capped part of Pakistan-China border at an altitude of 15,397 feet above the sea level.
Khunjerab Pass or Khunjerav is situated in the Karakoram Mountains on the northern border of Pakistan’s Gilgit–Baltistan Hunza – Nagar District on the southwest border of the Xinjiang region of China.
As one can imagine, installing and maintaining this machine isn’t an easy task for the bank. “The initiative faced several challenges of construction and delivery at high altitude. But we are very thankful to our local team, Pakistan Army and local authorities for their support,” said Ovais Asad Khan, Divisional Head, and Strategic Marketing Division.
According to Khan, the project was undertaken after seeking guidance and height requirement from the Guinness Book of World Records. As part of the bank’s Green-Initiative, the ATM is powered by renewable energy, i.e. solar power and wind turbine. It is open 24/7.
Besides tourists, who routinely need to replenish cash, the ATM is also popular with the local population and has become a landmark in the area. “The ATM is on the main highway and starting point of CEPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor). This is a very popular tourist site as well and withdrawals are mostly done by tourists,” Khan said.
Sheharzad Kaleem, who visited the area recently as a tourist, was very surprised to find an ATM at such an altitude where there is little else in the surroundings. “I was not expecting an ATM machine at this height. I didn’t need to use it but thought about it just for fun. To be honest, I also didn’t find anyone using the machine,” she said.
Kaleem said she found the idea a great marketing gimmick but was not convinced about its utility. “I didn’t understand the need for it in the middle of the snow where there is hardly anything else. Also, the next town after this pass is Sost which has several ATM machines,” said the tourist who is based in Dubai.
Payment of bills
The ATM though also provides bill payment and transfer options. It is an ATM (not Cash deposit machine) and withdraws cash, as well as allows digital payment of bills and fund transfers, the bank said in an emailed statement.
The ATM, however, is operational round the clock. Special care is taken to continue its uninterrupted service during winters when temperatures drop below zero. According to the bank official, in order to ensure uninterrupted cash availability, the machine is maintained by its nearby branch in Sost city, which does the 24/7 monitoring of the ATM at Head Office level.
The machine, which held the title of the highest ATM in the world was in India, where in 2007, Union Bank of India installed an ATM machine at Nathu-La, which is a centuries-old mountain pass in India on the Silk Route. That ATM was located at in Kupup area at an altitude of around 14, 300 ft.