NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Even With Fees, Banks Lose Money On ATMs

November 16, 1999

With America facing many cultural, economic and social problems, one would not expect that fees charged by some banks for use of their automatic teller machines by noncustomers would be among the most pressing issues of the day. But an outfit called the U.S. Public Interest Research Group has sought to make it so.

Critics of the fees seek to instill the notion that ATMs are cash cows for banks. But the facts are otherwise.

  • There are now more than 227,000 ATMs in the U.S.
  • A McKinsey & Co. study estimates the machines cost banks more than seven times as much as they save.
  • A Federal Reserve study puts the average loss to banks at $10,400 a year per ATM.
  • Industry wide, that amounts to more than $1 billion a year.

Analyst John Charles Bradbury figures that a low-cost ATM needs at least 3,000 transactions a month to break even. With a fee, that number is cut to 500.

Source: Doug Bandow (Cato Institute), "Stealing From ATM Machines," Investor's Business Daily, November 15, 1999; John Charles Bradbury, "ATM Surcharges and the Expansion of Consumer Choice," Cato Briefing Paper No. 36, March 19, 1998, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, (202) 842-0200.


Browse more articles on Government Issues