ATM Madness

I am proud to say that I have never used an ATM. I suspect I am one of a miniscule number of Americans able to claim this. I have never been able to appreciate why I should pay fees to the convenience of banking through ubiquitous ATMs. Now I read that last year Americans paid over $7.1 billion in ATM fees, which averages out to over $20 for every man, woman and child in the US, but probably much more for those people who regularly use ATMs.

I enjoy walking to the nearest branch of my main bank, where tellers know me and I often have nice conversations with them. Walking is very healthy activity.

Does use of ATMs really improve the quality of life of people? I doubt it. For most of history people existed very well without ATMs. With discipline, good habits and planning it is easy to always have sufficient cash without the need to use ATMs, especially because there is so much use of credit and debit cards. The cost of convenience is something that Americans addicted to many forms of technology should seriously reconsider.

There are some 425,000 ATMs in the US. I see this as facilitating an expensive addiction to their use.

A 2009 survey by ING Direct found that one in five ATM users pay a fee at least once a month for using an out-of-network machine. Of those ATM users, more than half paid an average of $2 per withdrawal.

In these hard and uncertain economic times it would make a lot of sense for people to curb their use of ATMs. Those billions of dollars in ATM fees just make banks more profitable and who in their right mind wants to do that when banks have played such a pivotal role in ruining the US economy? It is time to stop wasting so much money on ATM fees.

In a rational world, banks should always provide ATMs as a free service, which now only a very few banks do.

Currently, most banks have raised or are planning to raise ATM fees because of new federal regulations curbing some of their other fees. Getting hit by a $5 fee should knock some sense into peoples’ heads. Either that or stay stupid.

Many articles are written to provide ways to reduce ATM fees, but they never take my position, namely that the best strategy is to stop using ATMs altogether. Now is the time for adults to do that and to stop their children from getting into the habit of using them.

In addition to wasting your money on ATM fees also give some thought to the many criminal acts perpetrated on ATM users. Some are sophisticated frauds where ATM card numbers and PINs are stolen and others are just brutal attacks on customers at the machines.

The one crime that I must admit amuses me is the robbery of ATMs themselves. Last year there were 100 robberies of ATMs in Texas, 28 in San Diego, and 35 in Atlanta, for example. ATMs can hold as much as $200,000 in cash, making them attractive targets for thieves, which explains why this crime is on the rise.

It is time for ATM users to see themselves as victims of the banks and rethink their behavior.