In an effort to reduce costs and the number of transactions at its automated teller machines, Citicorp has quietly bumped up the minimum that can be withdrawn from its ATMs.
In a brochure for customers, the $311 billion-asset banking company said it was raising the minimum withdrawal amount from $20 to $40 "so you can get the cash you need right away."
The new minimum, which is double that demanded by rival banks in New York City, applies to anyone using a Citibank ATM.
Citi's account holders, however, can opt for another screen that will give them the choice of withdrawing as little as $20.
Citicorp introduced the higher minimum six months ago with little fanfare. But many consultants said they believe the idea might catch on at other banks.
"It's a bold move," said James Shanahan, an ATM consultant at Business Dynamics Inc., Newark, Del. "But if they get away with it, you can bet others will follow."
Banks have been struggling to reduce the costs of electronic banking services, like ATMs, just as the popularity and use of the machines is on the rise.
Susan Weeks, a Citicorp spokeswoman, insisted the change was made to reduce waiting time at ATMs. Citi has 1,392 such machines in the New York region.
The company wants to encourage consumers to take out more money per visit rather than returning many times to make smaller withdrawals, which has been the culprit behind long ATM lines, she said.
"We get a lot of traffic going through the centers," Ms. Weeks said. "It was causing a capacity problem for our own customers."
Once heralded by the industry as the answer to slashing branch staff costs, ATMs have instead proven to be a drain. "They did not significantly cut into branch expenses," Mr. Shanahan said.
Customers accepted ATMs as a new banking channel, but they did not stop using teller lines and other traditional banking services, as banks had hoped, consultants said.
"Customers never met a channel they didn't like," said Les Dinkin, a retail banking consultant at Oliver, Wyman & Co.
Raising the minimum withdrawal amount is one way to control branch costs by reducing transaction volume. "It gets customers to think about how they are managing their money," Mr. Dinkin said.