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American consumers have paid higher automated teller machine (ATM) fees over the past five years according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation released today by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The lawmakers requested the report to assess increased ATM use by Americans in recent years. GAO estimates that there are 420,000 ATMs in the United States.
According to the report, consumers face two different types of fees when using an ATM. First, consumers can face a surcharge fee assessed by the operator of the ATM. GAO estimates that the prevalence and amount of ATM surcharge fees charged by financial institutions have increased since 2007 and that the estimated average fee increased from $1.75 in 2007 to $2.10 in 2012. The report also found that large banks were more likely to charge higher surcharge fees than community banks or credit unions. GAO’s analysis of a sample of 100 ATMs run by independent operators found that the average surcharge fee was $2.24 and noted that consumers can have a difficult time avoiding surcharges at these ATMs.
In addition, consumers can also face foreign fees for using an ATM not owned by their financial institution, even though their financial institution is compensated for the cost of the transaction through interchange fees. Like surcharges, the report found that average foreign fees have increased from $1.36 in 2007 to $1.42 in 2012. In addition, GAO found that large financial institutions were more likely to charge foreign fees.
“The number of ATMs has more than doubled in the last 15 years, and as more consumers depend on them for their banking needs, the fees must be fair,” said Udall. “Fees can stack up — especially in rural areas with limited bank access -- and paying upwards of $5 per transaction to access your own money is beyond reason.”
The GAO report can be accessed here <harkin-press.enews.senate.gov/mail/util.cfm?mailaction=clickthru&gpiv=2100101864.9261.47&gen=1&mailing_linkid=82139> .