ATM Fees Remain Controversial Topic

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A majority of ATM users would switch financial institutions in order to be able to use ATMs anywhere in the country without paying a fee, according to a recent research study by Synergistics Research Corp.

The study, entitled, Maximizing the Role of ATMs, was conducted via the Internet during July and August of 2005 with 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.

According to Synergistics, all ATM users were asked how likely they would be to switch financial institutions to be able to use ATMs anywhere without paying a fee, with one-fifth indicating that they would be "very" likely to do so. Overall, somewhat more than half express some likelihood of switching.

This intent tends to be wider among moderate to heavy ATM users (use ATMs five-plus times per month).

"ATM pricing, of course, has long been a controversial issue among customers, financial institutions, regulators, and consumer advocates," said Genie M. Driskill, COO of Synergistics. "Findings indicate that to a large extent market forces have addressed this in that most ATM users prefer to use their own institution's terminals, primarily for pricing reasons. Providers may be able to capitalize on this in certain markets by offering surcharge free ATMs to attract usage from competitors' customers. Similarly, reimbursing the ATM surcharges incurred by one's own customers when using other organizations' ATMs could be done as a loyalty building tactic, as some organizations have implemented."

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