In March 2009, the financial services industry changed the way consumers were charged for using ATM’s throughout Australia.
Under the old regulations, a financial institution was able to set the fee that a consumer incurred for using a ATM. The service fee was normally waived if the consumer was a member of the bank or credit union who owned and operated the ATM. In the very common scenario where a consumer used an ATM was wasn’t directly owned by their bank or affiliated to it in some manner – the bank would normally charge a fee for those services. If you used an independent ATM, for instance one that wasn’t operated by one of the major banks or institutions – they were paid a commission of sorts by the clients bank for facilitating the transaction. The operators of the independent ATM networks decided that wasn’t all that fair and sort to have the legislation changed.
Since the beginning of March, the owner/operator of the ATM can now charge whatever fee they want when someone uses their ATM. As an example, if a Suncorp member uses a Suncorp or affiliated ATM – they are not charged any fees for the transaction. If they use an ATM that isn’t in an agreement with their bank – the ATM owner, say Commonwealth Bank of Australia now have the ability to charge the Suncorp user whatever fee they feel inclined.
When the legislation was first amended there was a significant amount of press covering the changes, as the consumer advocacy groups felt it was open to substantial abuse. The example most often cited, related to an ATM within a bar, nightclub or pub. During the day when the nightclub or pub is not under heavy patronage, the fee for a consumer would be moderate – maybe $2.00. However, once the alcohol started flowing and people were inebriated – the fee would suddenly jump to $10 to use the ATM. It is easy to see why the consumer watchdogs thought it was going to be abused, a drunk person just wants more money to keep on drinking and isn’t paying a lot of attention. They’d more than likely ignore the prompt and just keep pressing next until the ATM dispensed additional drinking money.
I personally find it frustrating that the banks look at the ATM as another avenue to make money from the public of Australia. Users already provide the bank their money, which they invest an make hundreds of millions of dollars annually and for that privilege – they are charged to withdraw their own money. On top of that, electronic funds transfer has become so common place nowadays, a lot of people don’t carry cash on them anymore. You can use a standard debit or credit card to purchase and ice cream and you won’t get looked at sideways in most cases and you’re not being charged for it.
Every ATM I’ve used since the legislation changed has been charging $2.00 to use the ATM, regardless of time of day. I’m sure that plenty of people have come across ATM’s that charge a lot more but I haven’t come across one charging less, until last week. If you’re out and about and have a need for an ATM, I’d recommend you use a rediATM if there is one around – they only charge $1.75. While it is only 25c difference, I think that rediATM should be applauded for not following the masses and blindly charging $2.00 for their service. I hope if enough people use their network of 3,100 ATM’s throughout Australia – they might keep their service fee below the magic $2.00 mark that every other financial service business wants to charge.