ATM Fee Reform – how these changes will affect you

What has changed?
A “Direct Charging” ATM fee reform was introduced on March 3rd 2009, making it mandatory for ATM’s to provide on screen disclosure of the charges applied to customers using ATM’s that don’t belong to the cardholder’s financial institution.

Why has this changed?
The industry together with the Reserve Bank of Australia developed these changes with the vision of providing cardholder’s greater choice and increased transparency when making a transaction at a “foreign” ATM. The move to direct charging eliminates “interchange fees” – the fee that was previously passed on to the consumer at the discretion of the cardholder’s financial institution, arguably not reflecting the true cost of the transaction. The motivation is to increase competition in the market, providing a clearer comparison and incentive for ATM Owners to charge a fee which is closer aligned to the “true cost” of using the service.

What can you expect?
Each time you use a foreign ATM to withdraw cash or check your balance, a message displaying the owner fee will appear after you enter in your PIN. You will then have the option to accept or decline the transaction. A fee will be charged and taken out of your account at the time of the transaction if you wish to proceed. Alternatively if you decide to cancel no cost will be incurred. While the amount can vary, the typical cost that most operators are expected to charge non-bank customers is up to $2. In addition, some institutions will be enforcing an additional charge for using a foreign ATM, in the form of a “disloyalty fee”, effectively a double charge to the consumer.

How are the banks responding?
• NAB was the first of the major banks to hit the spotlight, by announcing that they would continue to charge a fee of $0.50 for using foreign ATM’s. The other majors were tight lipped leaving the announcement closer to the date when the reforms were to take place. On Thursday March 12, NAB withdrew this charge based on customer feedback and competition from other banks.
• The Commonwealth Bank was the only one of the majors opting against charging a disloyalty fee.
• ANZ had initially anticipated passing on a charge to their customers, but at the last minute withdrew their decision.
• Westpac agreed on a charge of $0.25 however backlash in consumer dissatisfaction from Westpac customers has forced the bank to remove this fee. As of Friday 6 March, Westpac has also committed to refund the fee charged.

The below tables show the “Direct Charge” associated with processing a transaction if you are not part of the affiliated ATM network associated with the bank / independently operated ATM.

Bank Operated

Direct Charge ATM Fees

# of ATM's

ANZ

$2.00

2,500¹

Commonwealth Bank

$2.00

> 4,000²

NAB

$1.50 ($0.50)

1,650

Westpac

$2.00

2,800³

¹ will rise to 2,600 by September 2009
² inclusive of Bankwest ATMs
³ inclusive of St George ATMs
* balance enquiry fees are disclosed in brackets if they are different

 

Independently Operated

Direct Charge ATM Fees^

Cashcard (First Data)

$2.00 ($0.75)

Cashconnect (Banktech Group)

$2.00 ($1.00)

Customers ATM (Customers Limited)

$2.00 ($1.00)

iCash (Pulse International)

$2.00

Indue Money (Indue Limited)

$2.00 ($0.50)

Kwik Cash (Chubb)

$2.20 ($0.80)

rediATM (CUSCAL Limited)

$1.75 ($0.00)

^ fees can vary depending on the merchant
* balance enquiry fees are disclosed in brackets if they are different

Who owns the ATM’s?
There are around 26,000 ATMs in Australia. Banks only own 11,200 (43%). The rest are owned by credit unions, building societies and independent deployers such as “Cashconnect” (Banktech Group), “Kwik Cash” (Chubb), “rediATM” (CUSCAL Limited), “Customers” (Customers Limited), “Cashcard” (First Data), “Indue Money” (Indue Limited) and “iCash” (Pulse International).

What can you do save on ATM fees?
1. Use your own banks’ ATMs or a fee-free networked ATM;
2. To find your closest networked or bank ATM – contact your bank. Telephone banking staff will help locate the closest ATM or bank websites have tools to locate your nearest ATM – wherever you are in Australia. Some banks also have SMS tools;
3. Where possible, make your payments online or over the phone to help limit your cash withdrawals. At the same time, you can check your account balance;
4. Ensure you don’t authorise a transaction that is too costly. In a foreign ATM transaction, remember the screen will disclose the ATM operator fee, and it is your choice whether or not to pay it;
5. If you want to avoid/minimise ATM operator fees, consider using EFTPOS and getting cash out with a purchase. Additional cash from supermarket purchases are popular;
6. If you frequently use an ATM which does not belong to your bank, consider making larger withdrawals so that you incur fewer ATM operator fees;
7. Choose a bank account that lets you complete ATM transactions at your own bank or a networked ATM at low cost. Some transaction accounts offer unlimited free ATM transactions for a flat fee or a number of free ATM transactions before reaching a limit; and
8. If your bank does not have a large fleet of ATMs, customers can avoid an ATM operator fee by using their ATM card in a way that is advised by their bank or choosing a product which may minimise these fees.

Source: Infochoice.com.au, ABA, APCA

Published: 11 March 2009

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