Banks this year have dramatically increased the fees they charge noncustomers to use their automated teller machines, according to figures compiled by the research company

The average ATM surcharge charged by banks and thrifts is now $2.22, up 12.6% from $1.97 last year, said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst with the North Palm Beach, Fla., company. surveyed 250 banks and thrifts nationwide in August and released the results last week.

Many banking companies raised their rates this year because consumers are making an effort to use ATMs operated by their banks and avoid paying the fees, McBride said. This prompted the higher fees, as banks needed to offset the lower surcharge revenue, to cover the fixed costs of maintaining their ATM networks, he said.

"Surcharge fees are higher, but they are avoidable" for consumers, McBride said.

While fees for noncustomers were up, the average fee banks charge their customers who use other financial companies' ATM fell, the survey found. Foreign fees, as they are called, averaged $1.32, compared with $1.46 last year. said banks likely cut these fees as part of their customer-retention efforts.

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