Automated Teller Machines:

Survey Results Indicate Banks' Surcharge Fees Have Increased

GGD-98-101: Published: Apr 24, 1998. Publicly Released: May 11, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on fee-charging practices of banks and thrifts with regard to automated teller machines (ATM) used by individuals who do not hold accounts at the institutions owning the ATMs, focusing on GAO survey data on changes over the past year in: (1) ATM deployment by banks in the United States; and (2) the number of banks that surcharge noncustomers and the amounts surcharged.

GAO noted that: (1) its survey results indicated that approximately the same percentage of banks in the United States operated ATMs as of February 1, 1998, as operated them as of February 1, 1997--just over 70 percent; (2) however, during this 1-year period the number of ATMs that banks operated increased about 13 percent, to an estimated 132,000; (3) about 66 percent of this growth was in ATMs located off bank premises; (4) GAO's survey results also indicated that, for the month of January, the average number of customer withdrawal transactions per ATM declined 15 percent from 1997 to 1998, while the average number of noncustomer withdrawal transactions per ATM declined 24 percent during this period; (5) according to GAO's survey results, the percentage of banks operating ATMs that assessed surcharges increased from 39 percent as of February 1, 1997, to 64 percent as of February 1, 1998; (6) also, the estimated number of ATMs with surcharges increased by more than 50 percent during the same period; (7) GAO's estimates indicated that the average surcharge fee assessed by banks, including in GAO's calculation the ATMs without surcharges, increased from $0.69 as of February 1, 1997, to $1.00 as of February 11, 1998; (8) additionally, the estimated average surcharge fee, calculated for those ATMs with surcharge only, increased from $1.17 to $1.27 during this period; and (9) for ATMs with surcharges, the most typical fee as of February 1, 1998, was $1.50, compared to $1.00 the previous year.

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