New survey reveals bank customers' dissatisfaction with ATM fees

Buzz about bank fees has reached an all-time high and a new survey conducted by Ally Bank has identified what consumers consider the least acceptable bank fees, what they really want out of their banks and whether they know what they're paying right now.

Part of Ally Bank's survey sought to find out if consumers are aware of how much they are already paying in ATM fees. When respondents were asked how much they estimate Americans pay in ATM fees per year, only 9 percent of respondents chose the correct answer.

According to consulting firm Oliver Wyman, Americans spent $7.1 billion in ATM fees in 2010. Most respondents chose answers well below that, with answers ranging from $100 million to $2 billion on the high end.

Respondents were also asked to identify which banking fees they feel are acceptable. Dissatisfaction with fees of several kinds was revealed with the responses, including:

  • 84 percent of respondents do not believe it is acceptable to charge a fee for checking
  • 79 percent do not believe it is OK to charge a monthly maintenance fee
  • 77 percent do not think it is all right to charge an ATM fee

According to the survey, a majority (56 percent) of respondents also believe that a "fair" fee for using an ATM is $0 — no fee at all. However, a survey by reports the average fee banks charge noncustomers to use their ATMs is $2.40, with the most common fee charged now at $3.

Also, more than half of those polled on behalf of Ally Bank (53 percent) said they would rather take time to search for a free ATM than pay a fee for the closest, time-saving option.

"We understand that our customers are busy," said Diane Morais, deposits executive at Ally Bank. "But, we don't think they should have to pay to access their money. So we don't charge customers to make withdrawals from their Ally Bank account at an ATM, and we reimburse all ATM fees nationwide that other banks may charge."

The Ally Bank survey echoes findings recently delivered by Synergistics Research Corporation during a presentation at the ATM, Debit & Prepaid Forum held last week in Las Vegas. Those survey findings revealed that customers believe they either shouldn't be charged an ATM fee or that the fee should be less than current averages.

In the Synergistics survey, eight out of 10 consumers said they pay some type of surcharge fee. Of those that pay a surcharge fee, 76 percent said they didn't think they should have to pay a fee or that the fee amount was too high. Only 7 percent didn't consider fees to be an issue.

"The silver lining is that 40 percent of people surveyed didn't say they shouldn't have to pay fees, but just that the current level of fees are too high," said William H. McCracken, CEO, Synergistics. "They are open to paying fees, they just think what they're being charged now is a little too much."

The Ally Bank telephone survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation among a national probability sample of 1,016 adults comprising 510 men and 506 women, 18 years of age and older, living in private households throughout the continental U.S. Interviewing was completed during the period of Oct. 20 to 23, 2011. The margin of error for the survey was +/- 2 percent.

For more information on this topic, visit our trends/statistics research center.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • peter Trykoff
    I am in the ATM business so I have a different perspective on ATM fees. First the ATM user has to realize when they go to a their non-bank ATM the provider is loaing them money. It is not their money it is the providers money. If they want free then make the trip to their bank. But the reality of it is they are too lazy. We have locations with a $2.50 fee and the conveinet store next door is $2.00. Does the customer go next door, NO. What does that tell you. The survey is tainted. Ask any consumer do they want something for Free or pay, what do you think the answer will be?
  • jose delgado
    amen Peter!
    What most people do not understand is that an ATM can cost up to $75,000, and under trypical use, may last 5-7 years. In order to recoup that expense, the money has to come from somwhere. Throw that simple fact into a survey and I bet your responses will change quite a bit. I ask people all the time what they think an ATM costs and their typical response is $3,000-5,000. When I tell them on average we spend about $40K and sometimes up to $75K, they start to understand the fees a little more and learn to accept them.
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