The museums in the nation's capital are free, but withdrawals at automated teller machines there certainly are not.

According to Moebs Services Inc., a Lake Bluff, Ill., research firm, every bank with a branch in Washington charges noncustomers for using their automated teller machines. By comparison, out-of-towners using ATMs in Boston face just a one-in-three chance of being assessed a fee.

Moebs Services tracks fees by city and state for a variety of bank products and services. Nationwide, users can expect to pay a surcharge on nearly four out of every five trips to an out-of-network ATM. Cities where the odds are even worse include Chicago and Philadelphia, while odds are lower in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

The state with the highest ATM charges is Arkansas. Visitors to President Clinton's home state can expect to pay a whopping $3.05 for the average ATM transaction, about 10% more than in the state Moebs ranked second, Virginia.

Kenneth Williams, Moebs' president, said Arkansas' fees are high because of its strict usury laws. The state puts a ceiling on the interest rate banks can charge on loans and credit cards, so banks there must rely more heavily on fee income, he said.

The state with the lowest average ATM surcharge? Iowa, at $1.16.

Some might question why Iowa is on the list at all, since state law prohibits banks from surcharging noncustomers.

But Moebs chairman Michael Moebs said out-of-state banks with branches in Iowa can charge fees for use of their ATMs. Also, he said, "some in- state banks surcharge. They just haven't gotten caught."

Another notable finding about ATM surcharges:

Thrifts typically assess lower fees than commercial banks. "A lot of S&Ls are old-fashioned and they don't believe in charging," Mr. Williams said.

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