New Mexico bankers are fighting a bill that would cap automated teller machine surcharges at 50 cents.

Officials from both the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico and New Mexico Bankers Association say they are lobbying to defeat the bill introduced by state Sen. Leonard Tsosie.

The bill, which was scheduled to be heard by the state Senate Public Affairs Committee on Friday, is one of 13 such measures nationwide that would try to bar or limit ATM fees. A bill in Maryland has already been defeated, according to the American Bankers Association.

"I'm not exactly sure what Sen. Tsosie's problem is," said John W. Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Bankers.

"He thinks anything above 50 cents is just too much," said Jerry C. Walker, executive director of the Independent Community Bankers. "It would do more harm for his constituency than good."

Attempts to reach Sen. Tsosie were unsuccessful.

Sources said that banks in New Mexico currently charge noncustomers anywhere from 75 cents to $3 per transaction.

Kent Carruthers, president of $150 million-asset Citizens Bank of Clovis (N.M.), said that ATMs, with their installation costs and maintenance fees, are not a cheap proposition.

"Fees help justify their existence," said Mr. Carruthers.

If the bill passes, the banking officials said, it would discourage banks or nonbank companies from installing ATMs.

"I don't think legislation should interfere with free enterprise," said Michael R. Stanford, chairman and chief executive of First State Bancorp. in Taos, a $500 million-asset bank with 17 branches and 20 ATMs.

As with the similar bills nationwide, sources doubt the New Mexico bill will pass.

Mathew Street, assistant general counsel at the American Bankers Association, said that last year 23 bills that would have barred or capped ATM surcharges were dropped.

"They seem to fail everywhere," Mr. Street said.

In New Mexico, time is running out. The legislative session ends March 20.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.