New Yorkers Get Hosed on ATM Fees

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Thefts from ATMs in the U.S. reach record levels
They're out to get you.Photo: Richard Levine/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Earlier this week, Bankrate confirmed what most New Yorkers already knew: We get hosed, really hosed, on ATM fees. The average amount charged for a transaction at an out-of-network cash machine rose to more than $5 in the city, the survey found, versus an average of $4.52 in cities nationwide.

Some part of the rise is due to balloon squeezing: Customers are using cash less often and therefore making fewer visits to the cash machine. New regulations have also capped other fee income for banks. That means that they are jacking up charges on ATMs to make up the lost revenue. But it’s also part of a larger nickel-and-diming trend. The proportion of banks offering free checking without strings attached fell this year, the Bankrate survey found, and overdraft fees climbed. Monthly maintenance charges on certain checking accounts went up, too. Add it all up and it often feels like customers are paying the bank rather than the other way around.

For that blame Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen and the sluggish economy they are responding to. One main way banks make money is on the spread between what they pay to you in interest and what they make from loans. That spread has thinned as interest rates have drifted down toward zero and stayed there, leaving banks looking for other sources of funds. So what’s a girl who just wants a deli breakfast sandwich and doesn’t want to pay for it twice to do? Move abroad! Read the small print about your checking account. Or find a deli that takes cards.