Do We Still Need Fee-Disclosure Placards On ATMs?

Back in 1999, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act began requiring that ATMs provide two separate disclosures of associated fees — one on the ATM screen before the transaction is confirmed and a second placard placed in a conspicuous location on the ATM itself. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the EFTA that would eliminate the placard requirement.

The legislation, introduced by Representatives Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri and David Scott of Georgia argues that technology — and consumers’ familiarities with ATMs — has gotten to the point where the placard is no longer needed:

Because ATM screens were smaller and had lower resolutions in 1999, Congress required ATM operators to display fee notices to consumers both on the ATM screen and in a prominent location on the machine itself. Today, ATMs are more prominent and better understood, screens are much larger, and they display sharper images. Also, unlike before, when many ATMs were not capable of providing the notice on the monitor, every ATM can notify consumers of possible fees today.

The legislators also claim that the placard requirement has led to problems for banks and ATM operators, who face huge fines if the sign goes missing. Additionally, consumers can sue for damages of anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per transaction if they use an ATM without a placard. The bill’s sponsors say that this has led to some people deliberately removing the placards so they can later file a lawsuit.

“Without this legislation, ATM operators may be forced to raise fees or reduce the number of ATMs,” reads the bill.

We wanted to know from y’all whether or not the fee-disclosure placard is still needed:

U.S. House approves bill eliminating ATM fee placard requirement [Birmingham News]

Thanks to Anderson for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. ChuckECheese says:

    An issue I’ve encountered several times in AZ is placard fee statements that don’t match what the screen tells me. In ever case, the screen fee statement was higher than the placard statement.

  2. Cat says:

    Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri – Republican.
    David Scott of Georgia – Democrat.

    Nice to know that the banking industry has both parties in their pocket.

    • Costner says:

      This is a common sense issue. The law still requires a notice on the screen warning about the pending charge prior to the customer being slapped with a fee. The requirement to have a sign glued to the front of the ATM is simply obsolete which is why the House of Representatives voted 371-0 to remove it.

      When is the last time the House could agree on anything to that level??

      The fact was, people were ripping the signs off and filing lawsuits left and right. It was easy money – and it was costing us (the consumers) money due to the criminals filing the frivolous lawsuits.

      This is a win for the consumer plain and simple. This is why the vote was unanimous… it has NOTHING to do with members of Congress being in the pockets of banks but rather for once the House actually used common sense.

  3. who? says:

    Really? In the long line of things to deregulate, they choose this?

  4. dks64 says:

    The placard should be inscribed in the machine, that way no one can remove it. Problem solved.

  5. Coffee says:

    Ooooh…looking at the polling, it appears that people’s opinion is divided on this. Because of the mercurial nature of fees, as noted by ChuckECheese above, I don’t think, personally, that placards add any additional value to an ATM, and can, in fact, be deleterious if they’re just creating unnecessary confusion.

  6. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    I’d like to see them keep the placards. I won’t use a machine that has too high of a fee unless I’m desperate, and usually I can plan to avoid that circumstance. I wish the placard would give other information though, like maximum withdrawal.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Well, I guess one alternative would be to require that the screen show the fees at least, say, 10 out of every 10 seconds. That way the banks could still play their precious ads (because you know they’d scream bloody murder about not being able to run those), but the person can see what the fees are before using the ATM.

      And that reminds me, I love that we have this many comments and still no one has once typed “ATM machine”.

  7. Hi_Hello says:

    can we get the number of successful lawsuit for not having the placard?

    I like it, first I look for the allpoint symbol, if none, I look for the no fee before I use it.
    if there isn’t anything about any fee..whether it’s free or not, I walk away.

    having to use an ATM just to be told there’s a fee at the end is just a waste of my time.

    at least point in on the screen before using and I’ll be happy with the placard removal.

    • Costner says:

      Just found this:

      “The same professional plaintiffs often appear in multiple lawsuits against different banks, and the
      complaints tend to be identical except for the dates and defendants’ names. The plaintiffs in the
      Pennsylvania credit union case also filed similar lawsuits against 12 other Pennsylvania financial
      institutions. Two of the most notorious litigants, retired couple Nancy Kinder and Ray Harrison, have filed 43 class-action lawsuits since 2009. In a deposition, Mrs. Kinder stated she searches for ATMs without a posted fee notice and, when she finds one, takes a photograph and withdraws $20. And Texas plaintiff’s attorney Eric Calhoun has filed approximately 171 lawsuits in four states since 2002.

      The only significant beneficiaries of these lawsuits are the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Attorneys collect
      $50,000 to $100,000 per case, while the average plaintiff receives only $100 to $1000 per lawsuit.”

      So basically these idiots ruin it for everyone else because they are going out of their way to file frivolous lawsuits in the hopes that banks will settle with them before it goes to court. I’d put money on the fact that they have someone remove the signs a day or two earlier and then conveniently “find” those ATMs so they can snap a photo and sue.

  8. keith4298 says:

    There are indeed a LOT of lawsuits over this. NY has a professional plaintiff that has been suing over this for quite a while now.

    He takes advantage of the fact that the placard needs to be “within view” when you are at the ATM and many are around the corner or on the door as you enter the bank.

    • regis-s says:

      Sucks that someone can take advantage of the system like that.

      On the other hand. You just know some ATM owners, especially ones with atrocious fees, would put the placard in some obscure place if the condition of “within view” wasn’t there.

  9. longfeltwant says:

    “They should keep the placards, but reduce or eliminate penalties.”

    This, to me, is the obvious choice. Put a sticker on the machine and call it good. If or when you notice that the sticker has been peeled off, maybe put a new one there because you care to inform your customers. Don’t allow customers to sue, and retain the ability for the government to fine egregious abuses.

    The reason for the placard is so that people don’t have to get 90% of the way through the process, including entering in their private code, before knowing how hard they were going to get shafted.

    • sardonica says:

      “Don’t allow customers to sue, and retain the ability for the government to fine egregious abuses.”

      Wow, neat, you have a thing which prevents people from suing. Care to share? Or are you making things up?

  10. CrazyEyed says:

    I don’t see how placecards are necessary as long as you aren’t charged a fee until after you confirm the fee assessed on the screen. Having a placecard is redundant. I had no idea there were fines of up to $1,000 if the placecard was missing. Regardless, fees on ATMs are such BS. This is one of the few reasons why I almost never cary cash.

  11. philpm says:

    Next step: eliminating any requirement that banks notify you what their ATM fees are. You know, to eliminate confusion.

  12. AEN says:

    How about going back to the “good old days” and not charging a fee. No problem with changing placard then.

    • Costner says:

      Yes because ATM operators should just be forced to not make money from their equipment no matter who wants to use it. That makes perfect sense.

      • AEN says:

        Who’s “forcing them”? They’d do it in the name of customer service just like they’ve done in the past. When ATMs first came out, I’ve used many of them without paying any bank’s fee. Only later did banks figure out that customers would actually PAY for a service they were getting for free.

    • jeb says:

      Expect a lot less ATMs, then. Why expend the effort and cost of operating an ATM, stocking it with cash, etc. if there’s no money to be made off of it? I haven’t encountered a bank that charges to use an ATM if you’re using their card (for example, I don’t think US Bank charges a fee if you’re getting money from a US Bank account.) The charge is typically for people with a different bank: for example, a BoA customer using a US Bank ATM. That makes sense: why should US Bank foot the bill for a BoA customer wanting his/her money?

      Basically, your proposal would effectively eliminate the use of out-of-network ATMs. Which would not be a good thing.

  13. leprofie says:

    Yes. I want to know before the screens what the charge is.

  14. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    “Without this legislation, ATM operators may be forced to raise fees or reduce the number of ATMs,”

    Really? Suddenly banks will raise fees because of 23 year old legislation? This amendment is just evidence that we have a bought Congress.

  15. Nasty Dan was a Nasty Man says:

    I can say as someone in the know that the cost of compliance for both fee and ADA stickers is surprisingly high. These costs are barriers to entry for small operators and for all operators are simply part of the cost of doing business, you know, the one that gets rolled into the fees many think are too high.

    • nbarnard says:

      Hrm, so a small operator can buy an ATM, a several thousand dollar piece of equipment (if not more) but they can’t purchase a sticker?

  16. TBGBoodler says:

    I have never noticed a placard at an ATM. I suppose I ignore it when I see it, figuring it’s probably inaccurate or out of date.

  17. kenboy says:

    Why not remove the placard requirement, but add a requirement that the screen show a “$3 for non-customers” or similar note on screen at all times, including in “attract mode,” or whatever ATMs call it. That way it can be updated as needed, and those that choose to not use a machine with fees will know the fee before they even get their cards out.

    • COTestDummy says:

      Exactly! Why wait until just before transaction is finalized? Placing the warning on the initial screen would serve as the physical sign, plus people wouldn’t have to go through the entire rigamarole of entering a transaction before being notified of a fee. Also, when fees change, they are more easily updated.

  18. commissarYarr says:

    Well I am glad they have decided to do something productive in this slow and stable time we live in.

  19. PragmaticGuy says:

    I’ve never had to pay an ATM fee though years ago Citibank charged $12 for the ATM card itself. But people should know how much they’re getting charged for the use of another bank’s machine

  20. Thorzdad says:

    Having the placard makes it easy to determine if you wish to use the machine or not.
    Few people, after having inserted their card, and entered their transaction, are going to now abort the transaction when, at the last instant, the screen tells them that the fee is higher then they expected. They’re already committed.

    Of course, the ATM owners know this about human nature. They’re betting on it. The only roadblock is those pesky placards which tell the consumer up-front what the fees will be.

    Anyone who constantly berates consumers for not making themselves well-informed before entering into a transaction should be against removing the placards.

  21. Qolotlh says:

    How about if we eliminate fees and the banks can save money on both printing the signs AND recoding the software. :)

    Oh yeah, it’s capitalist America…. Okay tiny signs on the back of the machine and 50% of what you withdraw as a “fee”

  22. MikeVx says:

    A modified suggestion: Eliminate the placard, but require that the non-participating network surcharge be on the display at any time the machine is not in active use by a customer. So much for that problem.

    As for me, I only use machines with a Co-Op or Allpoint logo on them, as my credit union uses both networks, and my ING card uses Allpoint. Surcharges have long since ceased to be a problem. Since the network operators for 7-Eleven in the US are on both networks, it is difficult to be more than 10 minutes from the nearest usable machine, and nearly impossible to need an hour. There are some places that far out, but if I need money in places like that, odds are I have some pretty serious problems going on. It’s been more years than I can remember since I saw a credit union ATM that was not on the Co-Op network.

    The saturation of the Co-Op network has resulted in this exchange any number of times:
    “Can you direct me to the nearest credit union ATM?”
    “Which credit union?”
    “The nearest one.”
    “There are X credit unions around, which one do you need?”
    “Any credit union ATM will do, whose doesn’t matter.”

    Eventually I get directions. I can only make deposits at a subset of them, but it’s been over a decade since I encountered a credit union ATM that I couldn’t use to get cash for free.

    The moral of this tale: Learn which networks your card uses fee-free and this ceases to be a problem except in emergencies.

  23. JonBoy470 says:

    Eliminating the placard makes it more likely that a customer who would be subject to a fee will initiate the transaction. And the transaction is much more likely to be completed once started. Human nature, exploited by ATM operators. I’d go for the “Fee displayed on-screen at all times” compromise, I suppose.

    The ability to conduct “cashless” transactions is much greater today than even a decade ago. Virtually all merchants take credit/debit. Even vending machines take cards now. ATM’s are going to go the way of pay phones over the next decade, regardless of this legislation.

    • JonBoy470 says:

      Even for deposits they’ll go by the wayside. Once you don’t use cash you don’t need to deposit it, and once you’ve deposited a check using your smart phone, why would you ever go back to an ATM?