Inflating ATM Surcharges Ensnare Consumers

Physician's Money Digest, November 2005, Volume 12, Issue 15

Wall Street Journal

The cost for automated teller machine (ATM) use is steadily rising, according to a recent article and Bankrate.com study. The study found that the average fee a bank charges a customer for using another bank's ATM hit a record high of $1.35, up from $1.29 last fall, and the average fee ATM owners charge noncustomers who use their machines (ie, surcharge) increased from $1.37 to $1.40, meaning that you'll likely be paying $2.75 in total fees if you withdraw $20 from an ATM—a massive 13.5% hit for your transaction. It may seem insignificant, but it adds up to an estimated $4 billion that Americans will pay this year for using the wrong ATM, up from $2.49 billion in 1998. Is there anything a money-conscious physician can do to avoid these surcharges? Limit your ATM stops while out of town and shop around for banks. Some banks, to compete for new business, are offering nofee ATMs in certain areas (eg, Wachovia Corp in Texas and New York). Others never charge customers for using other banks’ ATMs, such as Commerce Bancorp, which also refunds out-of-network ATM surcharges for customers who maintain a checking account balance of $2500.