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Bank robbery? Record-high ATM fees
Survey finds steep charges for using cash machine at a bank where you don't have an account.
December 1, 2005: 10:04 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Withdrawing money from a bank that isn't yours will cost more than a handful of change, according to a new survey.

ATM fees are at a record high, with the average penalty for using an ATM owned by a bank where you don't have an account hitting $2.91, according to a study from Bankrate.com, an online provider of consumer banking content.

Customers using the "wrong" ATM are being charged twice for each withdrawal -- once by the bank owning the ATM and once by their own bank, according to the Bankrate.com study, which is issued twice a year and surveys nearly 500 accounts from banks in the 25 largest markets.

While the average fee may not seem like much at first glance, the costs add up. Bankrate.com said Americans will pay an estimated $4.3 billion in withdrawal fees this year for using another bank's ATM.

"Making two withdrawals each week from another bank's ATM is throwing away more than $300 per year," Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com, said in a statement.

The study also found that the average fee for having insufficient funds fell a few cents to $26.90 from $27.13, but banks are getting sneakier about these charges.

According to Bankrate.com, more banks are using "tiered" systems, where fees can spike if, for instance, customers bounce checks more frequently.

The survey also said interest-bearing checking accounts, which require customers to put down a larger initial deposit to avoid fees, remain unattractive because of their low interest yields.

The Bankrate.com study offered customers hunting for the best checking accounts the following tips:

  • Look for a checking account without a balance requirement.
  • Move any excess money from your account into a higher-yielding savings or money market account.
  • Don't settle for lower fees and balance requirements when what you really want is no fees and balance requirements.

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