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Lobbyist Money Help  

ATM surcharges could disappear

January 23, 1998
By: Emily Goodin
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - It's a familiar situation - you go to the ATM machine and it gives you a warning that if you continue, a fee will be subtracted from your account.

It's warning you about surcharges - the fee a bank charges to a non-customer for using its automated teller machine. It's usually $1-2.

Not all banks charge that fee, but Rep. Steve McLuckie has introduced a bill that would stop all Missouri banks from doing it.

"I want to ban the surcharge," said McLuckie, D-Kansas City. "It's an easy way for the banks to charge another fee and make millions of bucks."

Most banks, however, disagree.

"The free market is the way to go," said William Ratliff of the Missouri Bankers Association. "An ATM card is a luxury. You don't have to use it. They tell you if they charge $1 and do you want to continue?"

This is how an ATM works. Your bank belongs to a network, like Cirrus or Plus. A bank may not charge you when you use one of its own ATMs. However, charges are more likely to arise when you use a different machine. Ratliff said the $1.00 is the average fee.

Some of that money goes to the network, some to your bank and some to the owner of the ATM you had used.

Two years ago the networks started to allow banks to surcharge non-customers, in addition to the fee banks already receive from the network.

First National Bank charges $1 to its non-customers according to Jim Stock, senior vice-president.

"It seems like a reasonable charge," Stock said. "They have a choice. It helps us pay for the machine."

ATM machines cost $45,000-60,000 plus the maintenance. Union Planters Bank started charging a dollar at its Paris Road location this month.

It's the only location that charges because that ATM is in a stand-alone building and requires more maintenance, said Anissa Schuster, marketing director for Union Planters. The Paris Road ATM averages 2,000 non-customers a month.

Some banks warn that if the bill passes there will be fewer ATMs.

"There's not going to be as many ATMs available if the institution can't make money," Stock said.

"I disagree," Schuster said when asked. "An ATM is a value for our customers."

The Missouri Bankers Association estimates that there are approximately 3,000 ATMs in Missouri from state-charted banks and 40-50 percent of the machines surcharge.