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Houston Has Highest ATM Fees For Out-Of-Network Withdrawals

A study by Bankrate.com finds that the national average fee is at a record high of $4.72.

The Houston metro area has the highest average out-of-network ATM fees in the United States, according to an analysis released Wednesday by Bankrate.com. The fees include the penalty that ATM owners charge non-customers and the fee that banks charge their own customers to make out-of-network withdrawals.

The study surveyed the ten largest banks in 25 large U.S. markets and found that the average fee in Houston is $5.58. Houston ranked third in that same category a year ago.

Nationally, the average out-of-network ATM fee is at a record high of $4.72. That’s up 33% over the last decade, according to Bankrate.com.

Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, told News 88.7 one reason for the high fees in Houston is that they tend to be higher in areas with a heavy concentration of market share, meaning that a small number of financial institutions have a large share of the market.

“In the Houston area, we see a big clustering of fees, a lot of the banks all charging within a few dollars of each other on ATM fees and overdraft fees,” McBride said. “We don’t see that wider range that may be the case in other markets.”

Another potential reason for local high fees is that people are using ATMs less frequently. Utpal Dholakia, a professor of marketing at Rice University,  said customers are also making more electronic payments using services such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and other apps. 

“The banks and institutions which run these ATMs still have to spend more or less the same amount of money they did five years ago,” said Dholakia, “but they have fewer users who are going to help them financially support these ATMS.”

 

But consumer advocates have a different take on the high fees. 

“The cost for servicing an ATM is extraordinarily low,” said Jack Gillis, executive director of Consumer Federation of America. “So this is really price gouging by the banks.” 

Gillis acknowledged that electronic payments are becoming increasingly popular but said that many low to moderate income customers depend on their local ATM, especially given the increasing closures of local bank branches across the United States.

McBride said users can avoid paying the fee by always using an ATM from their bank or looking for ATMs that are part of bank alliances. He also advises people to use the cash withdrawal option often available at supermarkets and retailers.

“That’s the equivalent of a free withdrawal,” he said. “Most merchants and banks do not charge you for that.” 

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Digital News Producer

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz is originally from Madrid (Spain). He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master’s degree...

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