Automatic tellers were introduced to the public both as a convenience — cash was available at any bank's machine for free — and a cost-saver. After all, automated transactions are almost always cheaper than those performed by staffers. But by the late 1980s, banks started doubling down by using ATMS as, well, cash machines. Fees were imposed for taking cash from rivals' ATMs, for using ATMs abroad, for point-of-purchase transactions. "Denial fees" even tagged your account when a withdrawal was denied.
In 2011, Bank of America customers shouted down the bank's attempt to charge $5 a month for the privilege of having a card. But ATM usage fees still exist in the form of maximum transaction fees, with some banks limiting customers to 25 transactions a month. (You try it.) And fees for using another bank's ATM have continued to rise, to a record average of $2.50 in 2012, according to a recent banking industry report.