ATM Fees Slink Upwards

Everyone with an ATM card is used to paying withdrawal fees when using another bank’s ATM and it’s no big deal, it’s only a buck or so, and the ATMs are so convenient. If that screen said, “This ATM will charge you $4.75 to withdraw money,” you might look around to make sure you hadn’t accidentally stepped into a casino or strip club. But since many banks charge you an extra per-transaction punishment fee for using another bank’s ATM, that’s exactly what’s happening. You just don’t notice because it gets lumped together into one ATM fee on your bank statement. Not only that, but these fees are slowly and steadily on the rise, as seen in this NYT graph. Average ATM surcharges by “other banks” have gone up from $.75 to $1.75 from 1999 to 2007. Average punishment fee for cheating with another bank’s ATM has gone from $2.00 to $3.00 in the same period. Obviously, one way to beat the fees is to only visit your bank’s ATMs. Another is to bank with a place like USAA, which refunds other bank’s ATM surcharges. Any other solutions out there for ending the fee spree?

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  1. friendlynerd says:

    Thankfully my city is dotted with Wawa convenience stores that don’t charge anything, and my bank doesn’t charge me on the back end. This fee thing is really getting out of hand…

  2. ironchef says:

    etrade bank refunds all ATM fees too.

    Discovercard let’s you get cash back on your purchases above your purchase amounts.

  3. goller321 says:

    They sucked us in in the 80′s with no fees; and like a drug pusher. Then when the people got hooked, they started charging.
    What really gets me is when I go to a no fee ATM and use one of the 2 free non-bank ATM transactions allowed, I still get hit because the ATM is “out of network.” How am I supposed to know which is in and which is out of network…!!!!

  4. blitzcat says:

    State Employees Credit Union. No Damn Fees for anyone.

  5. mattatwork says:

    Instead of going to another bank’s ATM, go to a pharmacy or grocery store chain, buy a candy bar, and get cash back.

    This 75 cent “ATM fee” comes with a free candy bar!

  6. stevegoz says:

    Since banks have proven to be unable to make money the old-fashioned way — by earning it — customer fees are coming to be their largest source of revenues. I’m sure this is all about the genius of capitalism or something like that….

  7. kelmeister says:

    The ATM in my office building charges $3 for non-customer withdrawals. My credit union adds an extra $1.50. But this is one of the problems I’ve encountered banking with a credit union: even in a city with a population of around 750,000, my credit union has one office, and of course it’s on the other side of town from my home and office. Their ATMs are few and far between. Other than that, their services are exemplary and I would never consider switching. So I either withdraw a large sum, or get cash back at the grocery.

    The great irony was that ATMs were supposed to be free, while face-to-face interaction with tellers was supposed to be charged. Are the fees to pay the gremlins that run the machines?

  8. floyderdc says:

    I bank at Commerce Bank (an East Coast bank) and they always refund my atm fees charged by other ATMS. I did not even know they did this until I saw it on my bank statement.

  9. hellinmyeyes says:

    Publix’s Presto ATM’s don’t charge a fee for my credit union’s network as well as a large number of other networks. My CU allows me two withdrawals from “other” ATM’s twice a month, which is more than enough for me. Any other time I’ll just ask for $20 or $40 back with a debit purchase or visit one of their ATM’s. I understand the original intention of ATM fees since, in the beginning, there were a lot of disjointed networks with sometimes limited connectivity, but, nowadays, this kind of crap just makes no sense.

  10. kinamoto says:

    Wait, there are banks that will charge you if you use an ATM that isn’t theirs, or get cash back from a point of sale purchase? Why would you keep your money there? That’s just stupid.

  11. JasonKeiderling says:

    That’s why you need a good bank. I use Schwab.com’s Investor Checking. I don’t get charged a fee by Schwab, and they offer unlimited ATM fee reimbursements.
    Etrade.com and FirstIB.com both have fairly good checking accounts too. My problem with Etrade’s is they charge you a monthly fee if you don’t have direct deposit. I have direct deposit, but I don’t agree with that policy, especially if I end up changing jobs. FirstIB.com only reimburses up to $6.00/month in ATM fees which is always enough for me, but they charge a monthly fee if you have less than a $500 average daily balance.
    I’d recommend Schwab. I’m sure a few people on here will recommend other good banks as well.

  12. lincolnparadox says:

    ATM fees are a racket. If you can take money out for free when using your Debit Card at a retail store, you should be able to take it out for free anywhere.

  13. suprnate says:

    E*Trade bank’s Max-Rate checking account will reimburse you automatically for any and all ATM fees.

  14. DMDDallas says:

    @lincolnparadox: The store lets you do that as a courtesy. You’re probably buying something from them. What reason does an ATM operator have to dispense money for you for free?

  15. DMDDallas says:

    Although I have a deal with Comerica bank that refunds my foreign ATM transactions, I’ve noticed at the local Chase ATM they will charge you $1.50 for a balance inquiry but will not warn you about the fee. They only warn you about withdrawing money.

  16. olderbudwizer says:

    Wow! My son opened a new account w/ National City on Saturday. Because his employer was a ‘preferred’ client, he got a pkg with free-everything, including “no atm fees when using another bank’s ATM”. Pretty sweet deal! Free money orders, free checking, free savings, free overdraft protection, free checks, free debit card…..

  17. scoosdad says:

    @mattatwork: Free? How do you figure that? You just traded the ATM fee for a “candy bar” fee of about a buck.

    Great if you wanted to buy a candy bar anyway, but….

  18. jld says:

    I’ve considered getting an account with a second bank in my city just to use their ATMs for free. I’d keep a couple hundred bucks in that account and use it only when trying to skirt getting charged an ATM fee.

  19. bohemian says:

    Locally it doesn’t matter since the ATM network our bank belongs to had ATM machines all over the place.

    When we travel we take a wad of cash with us for those non card transactions. If we need more cash we take out one huge ATM withdrawal so at least the $4 of fees comes off the top of one transaction, not ten transactions.

  20. chemmy says:

    I just pop into a CVS and buy something I needed anyway and get cash back.

    No fuss, no muss.

    To bad Duane Reade will not let you do the same. They want you to use the in-store ATM.

    Lately McDonalds by work has been telling customers their phone lines are all down so they can’t take debit…. but then tell you to withdraw cash from their ATM machine… Hmmmm

  21. Skiffer says:

    @JasonKeiderling: I also switched to Schwab because of this – they had a slightly higher checking account interest rate than eTrade, too…

    One note – you need to open a Schwab brokerage account with the checking account…

  22. Mr. Gunn says:

    There are a couple banks, like E-Trade and Metropolitan that will refund your ATM fees. Everyone should have an account with one of these guys, and just ACH a couple hundred in every other month or so, just for ATM use.

  23. racordes says:

    Read my lips…no more banks, use a credit union. Everything is better at a credit union.
    No ATM fees, better interest rates, nicer employees, fantastic service.

  24. MBZ321 says:

    At the grocery store where I work, cash back is highly discouraged. We have new electronic payment terminals, but they don’t ask the customer for cash back. If they ask us for cash back, we just add it onto the total (a pain sometimes), but apparently, it costs the store a significant fee to give cash back.

  25. friendlynerd says:

    @floyderdc:
    They only do that because you work there. I’m a Commerce customer, but I don’t have that luxury. My friend who works for PNC also gets that perk.

  26. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Once again: If the generally incompetent US Post Office can take an actual envelope from one place in this country & hand deliver it to another place a couple of thousand miles away for the enormous sum of 41¢ [soon to be 42¢], there isn’t one reason on Earth that a bank can’t do a totally computerized transaction with a machine, untouched by human hands except for the person that, once a day, puts the money & receipt paper in it, for the same or lower price!

  27. floyderdc says:

    @friendlynerd:

    I do not, nor have I ever worked for any bank

  28. friendlynerd says:

    @floyderdc:

    Oh wow. I somehow read “bank” as “work.” Maybe I need to look more closely at my statement because I don’t think they do that for me. And if not, why not?

  29. mattatwork says:

    @scoosdad

    I never said it was fee-free – I said consider it a 75 cent fee with a free candy bar. No matter what, 75 cents is less than any ATM fee around.

  30. swalve says:

    Easy solution:

    Plan ahead and get cash from your own bank. Patronize banks that are convenient to you. If you find yourself low on cash, suck it up and pay the fee from a foreign ATM. You are not their customer, why should they give you access to their services for free?

  31. satoru says:

    I still don’t understand why you can’t pay bills at the ATM. I used to do this all the time in Canada, but in the USA this seems like a totally alien concept. They’d probably charge me $5 to do it here even if it was available :P

  32. Garbanzo says:

    @kelmeister: Yes, the fees exactly are to pay the “gremlins” (or, as we humans prefer to be called, “people”) who run the machine.

    Despite what your comment implies, these machines do not run completely autonomously without human intervention. Humans put the currency notes in them, replace the receipt tape, remove the deposits, and repair them when they break. Humans also write the software that runs the machines and the connecting networks, design the graphics you see on the screens, manufacture and install them in the first place, and on and on.

    Lastly, the fees do supply profit to the companies that invest in buying and installing these machines.

    Now, the fees charged by your own bank for using someone else’s ATMs are a different story. Those do exist only to keep your bank’s sprites in pixie dust and fairy dreams.

  33. satoru says:

    The only time it makes sense to take out money from an ATM is overseas. At BoA you get slammed for a $5 fee. But if you take out enough money it works out much better than trying to hit those crappy currency conversion places. So take out $500 and its a 1% fee, which is very good, since the ATM transaction will be at the inter-bank rate the total fees will be low.

    Also I use a Capital One card for credit transactions as I save the 2% MC/Visa fee.

  34. balthisar says:

    If I need cash, I just use my company credit card, and they pay the fee. Of course I have to have paid, reimbursable expenses on the card in order to be legal.

  35. Die_Fledermaus says:

    why are there fees anyway? In the UK, NONE of the ATM’s charge fees. Doesn’t matter who your account is with. In fact i have been using ATM’s here to transfer money from my US credit union account, as the exchange rate is 1% higher than the interbank rate and there are no Fees.

    If they can get away with no fee ATM’s here in the UK, then why not in the US?

  36. Garbanzo says:

    @goller321: I think there should be icons both on your card and on the ATMs that tell you what ATM network they belong to. My ATM card (on the back) has icons for the Plus, Star, Interlink, and Instant Cash networks. You should ask your bank which icon to look for on the ATMs themselves to figure out which ones will be fee-free for you.

  37. fredmertz says:

    Fidelity offers unlimited ATM reimbursements with their smartcash account as well. I love being in a casino and laughing off the $5 ATM charge.

    To tell the truth, I completely understand the ATM fees that are added to your withdrawal — why on earth should Chase, for example, allow Citi accountholders to access their network of ATMs for free? Makes no business sense.
    It is criminal, however, when your own bank throws on another fee for using a foreign ATM.

  38. dwneylonsr says:

    USAA gives you back up to $1.50 per ATM transaction up to a maximum of $15 per month for other bank’s ATM fees. And never charges you any fee on their side.

    In addition I have gone to Circle K’s in the Phoenix area and bought nothing and received $40 cash back and no ATM transaction fee.

  39. uglyowl says:

    “It is criminal, however, when your own bank throws on another fee for using a foreign ATM.”

    Not only does the foreign ATM charge you, but it also charges your bank so their charge is generally just recouping their cost (if it is around 50 cents).

  40. Aphex242 says:

    Schwab Free Checking (it pays interest too! Like 4%!) rebates ATM fees as well.

    I lubs it.

  41. NotATool says:

    I too like to get cash back with Discover purchases whenever I can (grocery store or wherever). Instead of paying an ATM fee, I get “up to” 1% back on the cash advance. Pay off Discover balance monthy, so no finance charges.

  42. Corydon says:

    Step 1: Use a bank that does not charge fees for using a “foreign” ATM. WaMu is one example. Banks that refund fees are great, but that’s not necessary, and you should make sure they don’t make up the difference elsewhere.

    Step 2: Refuse to use ATMs that charge you a fee. That means, stick to your own bank. Many credit union ATMs also do not charge a fee (some do!). Finally, you can always go pick up a gallon of milk at the grocery store, pay for it with your debit card, and get cash back.

    Step 3: Profit!

    I don’t really use cash for much these days. That combined with my strategy above has kept me from paying any ATM fees for a while.

  43. How about every time I need to use an ATM, and there is not a bank close by which I have an account with, not only will I not be charged a “convenience charge” I will instead charge the bank an “inconvenience charge” for not having a branch conveniently located where I need it.

  44. azntg says:

    @Die_Fledermaus: That’s because the the American business mentality (come customer complaints or high hell) is nothing other than get $$$.

    UK Banks have a reciprocal agreement where the banks pay each other depending on usage, so that the customers can use any bank’s ATM without a fee.

    US Banks have a reciprocal agreement where each will conspire to milk every accountholder with ATM fees as much as they legally can. That way, each bank can point to each other in the snowball-in-hell day when the gubbamint decides to do something and get away with it. A dramatization (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be true), but you get the idea.

  45. Infe says:

    I don’t know what all you people are using cash for these days. I swipe the card for every thing I buy nowadays. The only things I use cash for are restaurants where they want to run off with your card (no thanks), and tipping waitresses (I just feel weird adding it into the total for some reason).

    And at work when people want to borrow cash, I can honestly say I don’t have it. I just don’t really use cash anymore.

  46. Infe says:

    Oh, and I meant to add, Wal-Mart’s a great place to snag something, and grab whatever cash you may need as you check out. They ask every time you use the card swiper, so it can’t be costing them much.

  47. hals000 says:

    this stuff is worse than payday lending. if you decide to take out just 20 dollars at a non-wells fargo atm you get charged 2 dollars by wells fargo and anywhere from 1.75 to 3 dollars at the atm, worst case scenario you are getting charged 25% just to access your own money

  48. georgi55 says:

    Get Electric Orange from ING and use ATM from Allpoint network.

    [home.ingdirect.com]

    [www.allpointnetwork.com]

  49. mike says:

    @JasonKeiderling: This isn’t accurate. ATM fees refunded UP TO $6.00 / month.

  50. PeteyNice says:

    For you folks with Schwab, do you know anything about their identity theft/fraud stuff? I was tempted by the WaMu online savings/free checking deal but they have such a bad reputation for that stuff that it gave me pause. I’ll say this for Wachovia – they may not give me interest on my money or have decent branch hours but when I had my card stolen they locked it down before I even knew it was gone. I am pretty loyal to Wachovia for that but it seems silly for me not to be earning any interest on my money.

  51. lemur says:

    @Corydon:

    Step 1: Use a bank that does not charge fees for using a “foreign” ATM. WaMu is one example. Banks that refund fees are great, but that’s not necessary, and you should make sure they don’t make up the difference elsewhere.

    I agree with your assessment that ATM fee refunds are not necessary and that the bank could make up the difference by raising other fees they charge. However, I think the same logic applies to banks who do not charge fees for using a foreign ATM. They too can make up the difference by raising the other fees.

    The fact is that if you are able to manage your money so that, as you suggest, you don’t need to use ATMs, then it does not matter tremendously what you would have to pay if you ever had to use an ATM. You certainly should pay attention to those fees but if you can manage your money well, those fees will come up only in very rare occasions. I can’t remember the last time I had to pay an ATM fee myself.

    There have been a few recommendations by some posters to switch to this or that bank like it’s a no brainer. Each time I see that I wonder whether there’s not some gotcha somewhere that the poster is not telling us about. Having to open additional accounts I don’t need or having to keep a large minimum balance and things of the sort are “gotchas” as far as I’m concerned. And even if there are no gotchas, once all the fees are factored into your usage patterns, you may find that the bank that does not charge ATM fees might cost you more overall than your current bank.

  52. @Skiffer: I love Chuck for this.

    Also, their customer service reps are all helpful and dont sound like street trash, unlike BoA who i think hires people based on their lack of interest in helping anyone, ever.

  53. elray says:

    Not sure how this is such a problem. In 1985 Security Pacific lost my deposit (payroll check) in their ATM. I haven’t used one since. No ATM fees for me!

    If you’re using ATMs, you probably aren’t managing your money and spending habits well.

  54. Aphex242 says:

    @PeteyNice: Dunno a thing about it, as I’ve had no trouble. I will say the very few troubles I’ve had (mostly of my own making) have been resolved in a completely satisfactory way in record time. Like, same day. I’m very impressed with them, and no, I don’t work for them. Just a big fan now.

  55. SisterHavana says:

    My credit union only has a few ATMs, but they are on the Co-Op and Star Surcharge-Free networks. There are enough ATMs on those networks in town that I can generally get to one easily. If I’m not right by one, I will just go to Walgreens or somewhere like that, get a pack of gum or a bottle of pop, and get cash back.

  56. JohnOB1 says:

    @mattatwork: That’s what I do. God Bless Rite Aid. Package of Tic-Tacs and $50 please. Rite Aid, Post Office, Grocery Store, any place you enter your pin pretty much will let you get cash back fo’ free. I only visit the ATM to make a deposit.

  57. Ariel.Sanders says:

    @satoru: My god because you would hold up the line. It’s bad enuff people seem to fall in love at the atm, or use it as slow as browsing online. If I catch sum losers paying his bills in front while i’m trying to get haircut money out good greif!

  58. dachuckyb says:

    If I need to get money and there is no chase ATM around, I will just buy a drink and get some cash back at the grocery store or walgreens. I haven’t used a non chase ATM for years.

  59. forgottenpassword says:

    @mattatwork:

    I am going to have to remember that! Thanks! ..even though I rarely deal in cash anymore beyond a cash tip here & there.

    I am just worried that stores will start charging their own “fees” if you do this.

  60. @dachuckyb: Isn’t spending a buck or two on a drink the same as paying a $1-$2 fee?

  61. sue_me says:

    @fredmertz: Because I’m a customer at both Citibank and Chase. And if Chase pisses me off, I’ll withdraw all my money and put it in my Citibank account.

    They can close my credit card in a matter of seconds when I report a suspicious transaction and have a computer send me a new one to an address NOT on file with them, Chase can recognize my name when I access my Citibank account from a Chase ATM.

  62. NYBanker says:

    It pays to shop around. TD Banknorth has a No ATM Fee Debit Card available in certain states. Commerce Bank does NOT charge a fee to its customers for using another bank’s ATM, and it will reimburse all ATM fees monthly if the checking account has a minimum daily balance of $2,500.

  63. jplotz says:

    I’ll chime in for Schwab as well. Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, overdraft protection, interesting-bearing checking account, etc. It’s the best.

  64. Jamie Beckland says:

    @elray: Huh? I would posit that ATM usage has little to do with how well or poor someone is managing their finances. It is really a question of preferences, and what works for each person. Some people need to spend the cash so it feels “real” – they are doing the responsible thing by using an ATM!

  65. GhettoGodfather says:

    I think a lot of people overlook the fact that banks (and sometimes these other ATM companies like Axis) charge the fees as sort of a return on investment labeled “convienance fees”. The ATM machine has to be paid for, installed, serviced, along with whatever other costs may be associated with paying for it’s location, phone lines, network connectivity, and so on. To be charged $.50 or $1.00 for the convienance of withdrawing cash right around the corner as opposed to driving across town to your bank doesn’t seem all that unreasonable. When you have an ATM charging you more than $1.00, then thats just them being greedy and you should invest some time to find another if you plan on doing the ATM thing regularly. Either that or plan your cash withdrawls better. And no, that doesn’t mean walking around with hundreds of dollars of cash in your wallet.. not very safe (or smart).

    I for one, rarely use cash anymore. What’s the point when I can charge just about everything to a credit card, get the protection that provides, rack up some points (translates to cash back at the end of the year for xmas), and pay the credit card bill in full at the end of the month? No interest, no fees. Combine that with getting yourself an account that doesn’t charge you for using a “foreign” ATM the few times you may need to and this shouldn’t be an issue. The name of the game is “smart money management”. Take some time, formulate a plan, and stick to you… you’ll save a lot of your own money in the end. It all adds up…

  66. strathmeyer says:

    @ironchef: “etrade bank refunds all ATM fees too.”

    Indeed, having been a member since about 2000 I found this out the fun way when they started doing this a few years ago. (“Hey, what are all the small credits to my account!?”)

    I don’t understand how people keep their bank account after having shoddy service. My last account was at Mellon Bank which I canceled when I was 19 because they wanted to charge me $10 a month to have an account. Even at that young age I knew something was up. (“You want me to pay you money so that you can hold onto my money for me?”)

    If your bank makes a mistake and doesn’t fix it properly, get another account. If your bank charges you to have an account, get another account. If your bank charges you [too much] for ATM withdrawls, get another account.