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Survey shows ATM fees hit poor people hardest

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“Our survey documents several types of ATM fees and debit card fees. The...

By Philip Newman

Automatic teller machines are a great cost-saver for banks but costly for the public in general and poor people in particular, a survey by a consumer advocacy agency concluded.

“Our survey documents several types of ATM fees and debit card fees. The fees can add up to hundreds of dollars for consumers over the course of a year,” said Tracy Shelton, an attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

“Sadly, these outrageous fees hit low-income New Yorkers the hardest.”

The survey checked 104 banks throughout New York state, including 14 in Queens.

The agency said ATM owners often collect two fees for one ATM transaction — the withdrawal fee their own bank charges to use another bank’s ATM and the surcharge assessed by the ATM owner and deducted from the customer’s account at the time of the transaction.

The report said banks throughout the nation have posted record profits in recent years — an unprecedented $74.6 billion last year— but keep raising ATM fees.

“Consumers in New York should continue to pressure banks not to charge unfairly high ATM fees,” said Susan Craine, a NYPIRG consumer advocate who took part in the survey. “Without consumer activism, we could suddenly find that many of us cannot afford to bank in the manner to which we’ve been accustomed.”

NYPIRG said the survey of the 104 banks found:

Nearly all (97 percent) of ATMs assess a surcharge on non-account holders and most (85 percent) charge $1.50 or more for each ATM transaction.

Eighty-eight percent of banks assess a fee to their customers when they use another bank’s ATM and all but one charges $1 or more.

Seventy-six percent charge their customers a fee when they use another bank’s ATM to check account information and 69 percent charge $1 or more.

Sixty-eight percent charge an ATM card replacement fee and all but three charge $5 or more.

Fifty-six percent charge a debit card, point of sale fee and more than half charge $1 or more.

The 106 ATMs surveyed were owned by 49 different banks.

“ATM surcharges are unnecessary in light of the fact that ATMs save banks (which own most though not all ATMs) money compared to expensive teller transactions,” the survey said.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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