ATM fees set a record high for the 10th consecutive year, with the average total cost of using an out-of-network ATM rising to $4.57 per transaction, according to Bankrate.com’s annual checking survey.
But the survey wasn’t all bad news. The average overdraft fee decreased slightly from $33.07 to $33.04 last year, after decades of public complaints about overdraft fees and 17 straight years of new highs. The most common fee is $35.
And guess what? Free checking accounts increased in number for the first time since 2009, with 38 percent of noninterest accounts not carrying any monthly fees or balance requirements.
So what’s the deal with ATMs?
- Technology — blessing and curse
“ATMs are increasingly expensive to run. Old ATMs used to just dispense and were small machines. New ATMs accept checks and cash, and in some cases do self-service, onboarding with document scanning and biometrics, and offer video chat. These machines are expensive, cost a lot to integrate with legacy systems, and have huge ongoing maintenance fees,” explains David Horton, head of digital innovation at Synechron, a global financial services consulting and technology firm based in Manhattan.
However, overdraft fees are decreasing, in part, because people are using technology to check their balances and getting alerts to stay on top of their accounts.
- Avoid fees
An unplanned stop at an out-of-network ATM for $20 costs nearly 23 percent in fees. A little planning when making withdrawals can add up to big savings for you in the long run, points out Bankrate.com’s chief financial analyst Greg McBride.
- The cost of convenience
Says Nicole Sturgill, principal executive adviser at CEB, in Arlington, Virginia, “With alternative payment options like credit, debit and mobile, before you pay to withdraw cash, consider all options.”