Chase Bank ATM in Illinois, which charges non-Chase customers a $5 ATM feeIt's been well-documented that banks are hiking fees for users -- and blaming government regulations for "making" them do it -- for the past several months. But the news that Chase launched a pilot program that charges non-Chase customers a $5 ATM fee to use Chase machines in Illinois has even cynics raising their eyebrows. According to this article, the $5 ATM fee is one of many ways banks are trying to make up lost revenue they can no longer rake in on automatic overdraft charges or "anytime, any reason" credit card rate hikes.

Customers aren't generally charged for withdrawing money at their own bank's ATM -- not yet, anyway. But a bank customer is generally dinged twice if they make a withdrawal at an out-of-network machine. The owner of the machine charges the customer's bank a fee, which most (but not all) banks pass along to their customers with a little extra thrown in. On top of this, the owner of the machine also collects a separate fee form the customer for using the machine. In total, ATM fees let banks pull in $7.1 billion last year, and it's clear they want this number to increase."I was astonished that Chase is rolling out casino prices for plain old ATMs," Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at advocacy group US-PIRG, tells WalletPop. He points out that a $5 fee is probably high enough to push non-customers to traditionally higher-priced options like bodegas or convenience stores if they need cash. (Also, keep in mind that many retail outlets won't charge you a fee if you get a small amount of cash back with PIN-based debit purchases.)

Mierzwinski blasts Chase's fee hike, saying, "My view is this is part of Chase's campaign to scare Congress into delaying the Durbin amendment." If banks can get the public to swallow the idea that draconian fees can be blamed on regulation itself rather than banks' quest to preserve their profit margins, the outcry could lead lawmakers to pass bank-friendlier legislation.

Mierzwinski points out (as does this article) that perks like free checking and an absence of nickel-and-dime fees can still be found at many financial institutions around the country. Many are smaller banks or credit unions, which require a little investigation on consumers' part to find them, but the payoff can be relief from the escalating profusion of fees.

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