$5 ATM fees coming our way?

hand_at_atm.top.jpg By Blake Ellis, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- ATM fees are on the rise at some of the country's biggest banks.

Chase, for example, is testing out $5 fees for non-customers. That means if you stumble upon a Chase on your way to dinner and decide to take out 20 bucks, you'll pay a 25% fee. And that doesn't even include what your own bank charges you for going out of network, which is typically around $3.

JP Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) is currently testing the $5 ATM fee in Illinois and a $4 ATM fee in Texas -- both for non-customers who use its ATMs -- to see if they bring in enough revenue to introduce nationwide, according to sources familiar with the tests. A Chase spokesman declined to comment.

Out of the bank's network of 16,000 ATMs, more than 20% -- or about 3,600 -- are located in these two states. Chase spent an estimated $400 million to build the entire network and pays $200 million a year to run it. So the bank is making non-customers pay a significant amount for the convenience of using this large network.

Meanwhile, HSBC Bank USA (HBC) this month started charging all non-customers a $3 fee for using its ATMs, saying that this pricing is more competitive. Previously, about 60% of its ATMs charged a $3 fee for non-customers, while the remaining 40% charged either $1.75 or $2.50.

While other megabanks like Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500), Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and Citi (C, Fortune 500) haven't made similar changes yet, CardHub.com CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou says they're not far away.

"It's easy to compare debit cards by looking at the monthly fee, so banks are going to try to minimize the monthly fees and load you with fees in different ways -- and ATM fees are going to become one of the most popular ways to do that," said Papadimitriou.

Even some of the banks that CNNMoney once called the least evil -- because they had free checking and zero ATM fees for customers -- are having to reconsider.

PNC Bank (PNC, Fortune 500), for example, is keeping its free checking account. But starting in September, it will stop reimbursing ATM fees for free-checking customers who use non-PNC ATMs and charge them $2 a pop.

Starting Sept. 12, customers who want to avoid the ATM fees must open a Performance Checking account and carry a balance of $1,500 or pay a $10 monthly fee, a PNC spokesman said.

TD Bank made a similar change. While it used to let customers use any ATM free of charge, the bank is now charging $2 for customers who use out-of-network ATMs -- unless you have a "deeper relationship" with the bank (which translates into carrying a high minimum balance and paying a monthly fee of $25).

"We changed our policy for basically two reasons -- in part because of competition in the industry and regulatory environment, but also because when we had this policy we had a smaller network," a TD spokeswoman said. "Now that we have invested in thousands of ATMs and mobile banking, people can get access to money when and how they want it, and it's a fee people can avoid if they want to."

The changes in ATM fees come on the heels of a proposed rule that would cap the fees banks charge retailers each time customers swipe their debit cards to make purchases.

CardHub expects the proposed Durbin amendment to cost banks an average of $27 per card per year -- adding up to a loss of more than $13 billion a year for the industry. So along with adding fees for non-customers or eliminating rebates for out-of-network ATMs fees, banks may even start making their own customers pay to use their ATMs.

More banks may also begin offering prepaid cards, said Papadimitriou. Since they wouldn't be regulated by the Durbin amendment, banks would still be able to collect the same "swipe fees" as they do now.

"They need to maintain a certain profitability for the services they provide, so they're going to get the money one way or another," he said. "They will be experimenting with a whole gamut of things, and ATM fees are just one way of getting the money back that the Durbin Amendment is taking away from them." To top of page

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