When I lived in the UK, I had a bank account with Barclays. If I wanted to take cash out, I’d go to any ATM (or “cash point” as the Brits call it), be it Barclays, HSBC, RBS, Lloyds, or whatever other “high street” bank. It didn’t matter. Because, no matter where I took cash out in the United Kingdom, I’d never pay any fees, either to Barclays or to the bank operating the ATM.
Well, I totally forgot that we don’t have it so good on this side of the pond. When I returned to the US on a one-way flight in January, as soon as I cleared immigration and baggage claim, it occurred to me that I needed to get some greenbacks (obviously not yet appreciating that everything today is done by cards, not cash). And that’s when I remembered that meant I’d have to find a Bank of America ATM.
Unless I wanted to pay an ATM surcharge of $2.50 (or thereabouts) to the non-Bank of America ATM machine – for the “privilege” of using their machine without being a customer of their bank – and another “foreign” fee of $1.50 to Bank of America for using an ATM machine not in their network. Add these two fees up, and you can easily end up paying $4 to $5 just take out your own money (regardless of whether you withdraw $20 or $100). So, instead, you walk fruitlessly around town trying to hunt down a Bank of America ATM, not wishing to spend $5 of your own money just to, err, spend your own money.
I’ve seen the same system in Australia, where ATMs charge service fees for withdrawals at their ATMs by non-customers. So, clearly the US is not the only country that follows this practice. That doesn’t make it any less infuriating. On the bright side, it seems like recently there are some non-traditional banks, such as Capital One and Charles Schwab, which have a policy of not charging their customers for using any bank’s ATM and offer automatic reimbursements of any ATM fees that are charged by the other bank. I recently set up accounts with both. Suck that, ATM fees.