While the recent outbreak of opposition to automated teller machine surcharges is familiar enough to industry observers, the stakes are much higher this time around because so many banks, thrifts and credit unions have come to rely on the fees.

Several recent surveys - including ones by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Credit Union National Association, and American Banker - show that surcharging has become more the norm than the exception since 1996, when Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International first formally permitted the practice. The surveys also revealed other details of surcharging by financial institutions.

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