Is a Smart Safe the Same Thing as a Cash Recycler? 3 Important Similarities and Differences

When it comes to cash handling in the retail world, the smart safe is probably the best-known example of what bankers call “cash automation” – a blanket term for using computerized equipment to increase speed, accuracy, and security. Smart safes help with all three of these things, but with some important caveats that we’ll discuss below.


The cash recycler is the next step up from a smart safe. In simple terms, it’s like a smart safe and a cash dispenser in one, offering the same benefits of the former but removing some key limitations. Let’s take a look at some of the most important similarities and differences in how these two devices work.



1. Both smart safes and cash recyclers prepare cash for deposit and securely store it.


This is the main purpose of a smart safe: Sequestering the large bills that accumulate throughout the day’s transactions, totaling and recording each cash drop, and stowing the deposit safely until the next armored car visit. These safeguards tend to allow less frequent armored car visits – once or twice a week instead of daily. A cash recycler includes all of the same functions!


Armored car
Provisional credit is given to a retailer between the time cash is dropped into a smart safe and the time the armored car arrives to pick up the deposit.

2. Both smart safes and cash recyclers allow provisional credit from your bank.


In cash handling, “provisional credit” means that if you are using a secure cash automation device (such as a smart safe or a cash recycler), you’re given credit in your account for the cash in your safe, before the deposit gets to the bank. Basically, once the money goes into the device and is set aside for deposit, it becomes the bank’s money sitting in your safe until an armored car comes to pick it up.


This may seem like an odd way of doing things, but it makes sense when you consider that you’ll only be making a deposit every few days, or even less frequently. Most businesses don’t want to hold on to a whole week’s worth of cash, possibly totaling tens of thousands of dollars, and have it sitting in a safe unable to be used; so provisional credit is a way to solve that issue.


3. Smart safes are much more of a one-way street.


This is the big difference between smart safes and recyclers. The smart safe is basically a holding pen that sits outside of the transaction-by-transaction flow of business, catching the accumulated extra cash. A recycler is best used as an active part of the cash-handling process in both directions, securing the cash to be deposited while also serving as both a collector and a dispenser of the small notes used for making change.


Retail cash drawer
A retail cash drawer tends to need a steady supply of smaller notes, while $100 bills will never be given back out as change, and $50 and $20 bills only rarely.

It’s because of this particular function that the cash recyclers used in retail locations are slightly different from those used in banks. At a teller window in a bank, you might be taking in or handing out any denomination of currency at any time; and a bank doesn’t need to make deposits either – so all of the rolls or cassettes in a bank recycler will typically be bi-directional.


A retailer, though, is almost never going to give out $50 or $100 bills as change, so those are separated and secured immediately. A typical retail cash recycler might have up to three “active” cassettes dedicated to $1 bills, the most frequently used; two cassettes for $5 bills; one each for $10 and $20 bills; and the rest is a dedicated, secure area for $50 bills, $100 bills, and any excess $20 or smaller notes. These will be segregated in a separate part of the device that acts exactly like a smart safe, setting the notes aside for deposit and registering them for provisional credit. Some modern cash recyclers designed for retail operations even stack the notes in sealed, tamper-evident bags, so there is no manual handling of the cash at all!


We hope this quick list has helped explain the ways that smart safes and cash recyclers are alike – and the extra functionality that recyclers bring to the table. Modern cash recyclers are more versatile and less expensive than ever, bringing cash automation within reach for more and more businesses of all kinds. If you have questions about whether cash automation might benefit your retail business, contact Avivatech for a free consultation!


(Photo credit: Rusty Clark)

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