Survey: Banks’ ATM fees grow, free checking shrinks

Banks are hiking ATM fees to record levels and cutting back on free checking accounts., a financial research firm, announced the results of its 2012 Checking Survey on Monday. It found that ATM surcharges rose for the eighth straight year, up 4 percent to a record high of $2.50.

The fee for using a competitor's ATM rose 11 percent to $1.57. So for many customers, using an ATM from a competing bank costs $4.07, an increase of 7 percent and a new record.

Banks traditionally provide ATMs for free to their own customers, and cover their costs by charging consumers who use out of network machines, according to Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for

But people are getting smarter about using only in-network ATMs, which means that the companies are trying to make up for that lost revenue.

As for free checking, that could become a thing of the past. The survey finds that only 39 percents of banks offer a checking account without a monthly fee or a minimum balance. However, 72 percent of large credit unions still offer free checking, McBride said.

There is more bad news for consumers. The average overdraft fee rose 1.4 percent from $30.83 to $31.26. Monthly maintenance fees also grew to a record high of $5.48, a 25 percent increase.

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