Bank of America hikes withdrawal fees

Getting your hands on your own money at Bank of America just got more expensive if you’re not a customer. The nation’s largest ATM network has increased surcharge fees by $1 at the majority of its banking center ATMs.

Industry analysts say the company’s fee increase from $2 to $3 for noncustomers to withdraw cash from ATMs at its banking centers is just the latest effort amongbanks to divert noncustomers from their ATMs.

“ATM fees have continually moved higher over the last 10 years, and if history is any guide, we’ll see other banks follow suit,” said Gregg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. “Banks have passed along the cost of servicing and maintaining an ATM network to noncustomers so that their own customers can have free access.”

The surcharge for the bank’s 6,700 off-site ATMs will remain $2. The change for the other 10,300 ATMs at actual banks was increased to maximize service for Bank of America customers, spokeswoman Betty Riess said.

“This will reduce wait time for our customers in the banking centers,” Riess said. “We want to make sure that our customers come first. So given the choice, noncustomers would probably go to the off-site locations.”

Riess added that noncustomers would be notified of the surcharge before withdrawing money.

The average ATM surcharge nationally was $1.64 in 2006, up from 89 cents in 1998. While smaller regional banks have reached the $3 surcharge mark, McBride said this was the first time he’s heard of a national bank going that high.

Washington Mutual charges noncustomers $2 to withdraw from its ATMs, and Chase charges $2 in California and most states.

Getting cash back on debit card purchases and seeing if your small bank belongs to a larger ATM alliance are ways of avoiding these withdrawal fees, McBride said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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