More banks rescind ATM fees
NEW YORK — Fees for using out-of-network automatic teller machines are becoming a thing of the past for some bank customers.
Ramping up their efforts to woo new customers, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and Commerce Bancorp Inc. recently said that they not only will stop charging some customers for using competitors’ ATMs, but also will reimburse the customers for the surcharges that the other banks slap on the transactions.
Withdrawing cash from an out-of-network ATM generally costs a customer a total of $3 or $4, with the banks on each end of the transaction assessing a fee. Banking officials say the surcharges are a common source of customer grievances, and PNC and Commerce are hoping to get a leg up on competitors by insulating customers from the fees.
At the same time that many banks are trying to win new customers by opening branches and extending their hours, industry observers expect a wave of banks to follow PNC and Commerce’s lead and put ATM fees on the chopping block.
Anat Bird, a banking industry expert and consultant in Granite Bay, Calif., said that in the next two years, ATM fees probably will disappear among small and mid-sized banks that are operating in competitive markets. Offering refunds can help the smaller players neutralize the competitive advantages enjoyed by national banks that have much more extensive ATM networks.
But while ATM fees are much maligned among consumers, it’s not clear whether Commerce and PNC will lure enough new customers to make their refunding initiatives financially worthwhile.
Neither bank would disclose details about the anticipated costs of the refunds, the number of customers who are eligible to get their fees refunded, or how many new bank accounts would need to be opened to justify the loss of revenue from ATM fees and the costs of the refunds. A Commerce spokesman said it’s too early to tell whether the bank’s offer, which was launched April 1, is luring new customers.
“Not everyone will have enough compensating income to make this work financially,” Bird said.
At Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Commerce, the offer applies to customers who maintain checking accounts with minimum daily balances of at least $2,500. PNC’s program is targeted at customers in the Washington, D.C., area.
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