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ATM fees reach record high of $2.50

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 24th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

According to the financial research firm Bankrate.com, ATM surcharges, the fees banks charge in order to use ATMS are surging to record levels. In addition, more banks are cutting back on free checking accounts. Furthermore, the fee charged when you use a machine that isn't your bank's rose for the eighth straight year, up four percent, to a record high of $2.50.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The fee your bank charges to use another bank's ATM rose 11 percent to $1.57. Using an ATM from a competing bank for many customers now costs $4.07, an increase of seven percent -- and a record.

Banks traditionally provide ATMs for free to their own customers, but cover their costs by charging consumers who use out of network machines. Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com says that many people are getting smarter about using only in-network ATMs, which means that the companies are scrambling to make up for that lost revenue.

There is even more bad news for consumers: Bankrate.com also found that 39 percent of non-interest checking accounts provided by U.S. banks are free of charge to all customers, in contrast to 45 percent last year and a peak of 76 percent in 2009.

McBride says the banking industry has lost income due to an increase in regulations, and that's made free checking accounts harder to find.

"Two regulatory changes in particular have cut the legs out from free checking, one putting restrictions on overdraft charges, and the other limiting swipe fees when a consumer uses a debit card," he said.

"Swipe fees" that retailers pay every time a customer uses a debit card were reduced last year, said McBride, which followed after regulations imposed in 2010 that placed limits on overdraft fees.

Swipe fees and overdraft fees helped underwrite the costs of free checking before the regulations were imposed, McBride said. The bank industry is now more selective with free checking accounts, usually providing them only to preferred customers, such as those with direct deposit accounts.

Cutbacks are predictably affecting customer behavior. The annual report found that 72 percent of customers would consider switching accounts if their fees were raised, an increase over 64 percent last year.

The report said that higher-income customers, with at least $75,000 in their accounts, were most likely to switch, with 82 percent saying they would consider changing banks if fees were raised.

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