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We're Paying Higher Fees at the ATM

Bill Hardekopf

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently issued a report noting the considerable rise in ATM fees over the past five years. Last year the average cost of using an ATM outside your bank's network was $2.10, an increase of 20% from the $1.75 in 2007.

The GAO analyzed ATMs for financial institutions and independent providers to find that the independent providers charged slightly more than the banks. Financial institutions charged anywhere from 45 cents to $5, but averaged $2.10. Independent providers had fees ranging from $1.50 to $3, but the average was $2.24.

Much of this increase is the result of a decline in revenues for ATM services. The GAO study revealed that most ATM operators have experienced an increase in their operation costs and a decrease in their returns. As long as this continues, the surcharges for using ATMs will likely go up. In addition, banks are under more pressure to find new sources of revenue, especially since the CARD Act and Dodd-Frank legislation took effect.

The demand for ATMs is expected to be on the rise due to the increased popularity of prepaid cards. As more people continue to load their cards or get direct deposits, they will need ATMs to get their money out. This may help to level out fees for the future, but chances are you will still see an increase.

If you want to avoid these ever-increasing ATM surcharges, follow these quick tips:

  • Research in-network ATMs for your card provider. Some banks will waive the fees if you use their machines.
  • Use cash back options at stores whenever you can. The merchant usually absorbs the fees in these instances.
  • Compare the fees from multiple ATMs. You may be able to save a few dollars just by using a machine across the street.

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