BY KIM JANSSEN
If you have an unquenchable thirst for beer but your billfold is empty, think twice before using that ATM in the corner of the bar — it might end up costing you more than your drink.
Getting your hands on your cash has never been so expensive, according to a Bankrate.com survey that found the national average out-of-network ATM fee has risen to $4.52, marking the ninth year in a row that ATM fees have increased. Fees are up 21 percent over the last five years alone.
The good news? According to Bankrate’s chief financial analyst Greg McBride, the fees are going up because most bank customers have wisened up to the “completely avoidable” charges for using another bank’s ATM.
Low cash withdrawals
The average debit card user withdraws cash from ATMs just twice a month, down significantly from a decade ago, thanks to increased availability of cash back services at supermarkets and drugstores and electronic alternatives to cash, according to a recent study by consulting firm Oliver Wyman.
“People are getting smarter about ATM fees” and are seeking out free ATMs run by their own banks when they do need cash, said McBride. “The fees are going up because, with fewer users to spread their costs over, ATM owners have to charge more.”
Atlanta has the nation’s highest ATM fees — calculated as the fee charged by the ATM owner, plus the fee charged by the user’s bank — at $5.15. Next came New York, where using an out-of-network ATM will cost you $5.03.
But visitors to San Francisco, one of the nation’s most expensive cities to live in, will get a small respite. It has the nation’s lowest out-of-network ATM fees, at $3.85.
Overdraft fees up
McBride called using out-of-network ATMs “the type of sloppy financial habit that will send you to the poorhouse.” Planning ahead and using cellphone apps to find nearby in-network ATMs makes it easy to avoid the charges, he said.
Overdraft fees also are on the rise, Bankrate said. The national average is up to $33.07.