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NYPIRG Says ATM Fees Reach Record Levels

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A consumer advocacy group in New York has released its annual survey of ATM fees. It finds that such fees have reached record levels.

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) surveyed 31 bank ATMs and another 45 that are owned by non-bank operators. The report -- titled "ATMs, Always Taking Money" -- found that ATM fees in the Buffalo area reached $2.15, 57-cents higher than the state average.

NYPIRG's Mary Carney said most users are being socked by two and sometimes by three fees.

"We call this practice double dipping," Carney said. "Consumers are essentially being asked to pay twice to withdraw their own money. In some cases, we've found that customers may be charged as many as three fees."

She explained that one fee is charged by the owner of the ATM machine, the second by the outlet operating the machine and the third by the bank where the account belongs. Carney says such fees can add up to hundreds of dollars a year for consumers, hitting low income New Yorkers the hardest.

But Kathy Rizzo Young of HSBC Bank says ATM fees don't seem to be a big issue for customers, especially since consumers are not charged a fee if they take money out of their bank's own machines.

"The issues that are talked about in this study address what you pay at a 'foreign ATM' -- that is, when you use an ATM not sponsored by your own bank," Rizzo Young said. "Most of us choose our bank partially because of the availability of ATM machines. We know where the machines are."

NYPIRG, meanwhile, continues to call on both federal and state elected representatives to pass laws banning ATM surcharges.