Oct 2, 2019

ATM fees set a record, approaching $5

Data: Bankrate; Chart: Axios Visuals

It now costs an average of $4.72 to take money out of an ATM that isn't owned by your bank — the highest amount since Bankrate.com started tracking the data in 1998 (when it was $1.97).

Why it matters: ATM fees disproportionately fall on low-income people in neighborhoods that banks tend to avoid. At the same time, saving money in the bank is harder than before, as banks lower the interest rates they pay to depositors.

By the numbers: There are 2 parts to what customers pay to use an "out-of-network" ATM: A surcharge from the machine's owner and a fee that a majority of banks charge for using someone else's machine.

  • Surcharges by machine owners are now an average of $3.09.
  • Among the 67.7% of banks with "non-bank ATM fees," the average fee is $1.63.

By the city: Of the 25 metro areas included in the study, Houston has the highest average ATM fee ($5.58), while Los Angeles has the lowest ($4.15).

  • For banks, "the ATM fee has long been low-hanging fruit in terms of boosting fee income," Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, tells Axios. "Nobody's worried about alienating a non-customer."

Meanwhile, the average yield on a checking account is only .06% — down from 1.35% in 1998 (though the lowest figure was .04% in 2014, per Bankrate.com).

  • The average overdraft fee is $33.36 — down from the record of $33.38 in 2017, but up from $21.57 in the original survey.
  • Philadelphia has the highest average overdraft fee ($35.50), while Cincinnati has the lowest ($30.95).

Flashback: The world's first ATM was installed in London by Barclays in 1967.

  • "The bank was only open until 3:30 p.m.," so getting cash outside business hours was a big deal, recalled Carol Greygoose, an 18-year-old teller at Barclays at the time.

The first ATM in the U.S. was installed at a Chemical Bank branch in Rockville Centre, N.Y., in 1969, 6 weeks after the first moon landing.

There were problems at first: "Because the machines were offline there was no way to check a customer's balance to see if there was enough money to cover a withdrawal," according to Wired.

  • "To overcome that barrier, there was a $150 daily limit for ATM withdrawals."
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