MoneyRates.com research that has documented the
rise of ATM fees
, a new government report confirms that bank customers are paying
more to access their funds at these machines.
According to a
U.S. Government Accountability Office report
released this month
, some customers are paying ATM fees as high as $5 per transaction.
But banks may be inclined to argue that these fees aren't out of
line, as the GAO report also indicates financial institutions are
paying more to maintain ATMs and the revenue from these machines is
More ATM fee increases may be coming
When adjusted for inflation, the average ATM fee in 2007 was
$1.75. That amount has risen over the last five years to reach
$2.10 in 2012. Overall, ATM fees at machines surveyed by GAO ranged
from 45 cents to $5.
Those numbers were for ATMs operated by financial institutions.
Independent ATMs had slightly higher fees, with an average of $2.24
in 2012. Fees at these machines ranged from $1.50 to $3.00.
While conventional wisdom may indicate ATMs help banks save
money by reducing their need for branch staffing, the financial
institutions surveyed by the GAO say the cost of maintaining their
automatic tellers is rising. Some of the reported costs associated
with operating ATMs included hardware and software investments,
rent, infrastructure and transaction processing.
ATM operators told the GAO their costs have increased during the
past five years while their revenues have declined. Many operators
told the government office that in the near future they expect
their costs to continue to rise while revenues remain flat or
decline further, suggesting that consumers may see more fee
increases in the future.
How to avoid ATM fees
At up to $5 a pop, ATM fees can quickly become a serious drain
on your wallet. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid paying
Use in-network ATMs.
Banks and credit unions typically do not require their own
customers to pay fees when using the institution's ATMs. In
addition, the GAO notes many banks and credit unions belong to
larger networks that offer additional locations where customers
can access their accounts fee-free.
Swipe your debit card as a credit card.
Even financial institutions that offer free ATM transactions may
put a limit on how many free PIN-based transactions you get each
month. If you always enter your PIN when making purchases with
your debit card, you could quickly exhaust your free transactions
and start racking up fees. Instead, ask the clerk to run your
card as credit when possible.
Finally, you may want to re-evaluate your choice of banks if you
find yourself regularly paying ATM fees. Other banks may have a
more extensive network of ATMs closer to your home or workplace.
Another option may be online banks, some of which, such as
, currently refund ATM fees charged by operators outside their
network. As a bonus, the best interest rates on savings accounts
often be found at online banks
ATM fees may be on the rise, but with a little planning and some
comparison shopping, savvy consumers should be able to minimize the
fees they pay when accessing their accounts.