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Free ATMs or ATM Fees?

12-12-2011  |  By:  |  (1) Post comment »  |  Read comments »

A songwriter in the 60’s proclaimed that “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,” and then something along the lines that something which comes with a cost isn’t worth the hassle. Most Americans dislike the idea of paying for something that they at one point received for free, which is relevant in light of some ATM owners beginning to impose a surcharge on non-customers for using their machines. Note the difference between a customer being charged for using a machine not belonging to his bank and being charged as well by the ATM company itself. In such a case the total cost of using an ATM can be almost twice as high.

Proponents of maintaining the status quo of cheaper-to-use ATM machines (excluding the foreign fee, which is the fee charged a customer for using another bank’s machine) explain a well-known fact that banks prefer ATM’s over tellers; operating a machine and providing the service costs a bank approximately 36 cents versus the $1.06 it does to pay a teller, according to Rose Peter, author of Commercial Bank Management. That’s less than a third to operate an ATM. In fact, some banks have instituted a $3 charge for transactions that can be completed at an ATM machine.

Early in 1996, Master Card-owned Cirrus and Visa-owned plus dropped their long-held ban on charging network members for using their ATM’s, explaining their decision in light of competitive pressures from other regional networks that had already done so as well.

And yet a young New York entrepreneur is proposing that advertising can be used to provide customers with free ATM usage. 25 year-old Clinton Townsend has created Free ATMs NYC, which runs advertisements on a 15-inch screen at select ATMs. After performing a transaction, the customer receives a discount coupon for a nearby place of business or restaurant, which grants them free withdrawals.

Townsend’s hope is that the idea will catch on, and he’s already heard from several third party advertisers and the first one has been installed at the Knitting Factory, a bar in the Brooklyn Williamsburg neighborhood.

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