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ATM fees hit a 10-year high as banks search for more income

Your bank really wants you to use its ATMs.

The average out-of-network ATM fee is now $4.57 per transaction, a 10-year high, according to a new survey of account fees from Bankrate.com.

"ATM fees are low-hanging fruit," said David Albertazzi, a senior analyst with financial services research firm Aite Group in Boston. "Banks are under margin pressure to find more income and this is an easy way to do it."

ATM Withdrawal
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ATM fees deliver a one-two punch.

First, people are hit with a fee charged by the bank that owns the ATM if they are not customers. That fee averaged $2.90 per transaction this year, up from $2.88 last year.

Then, people are charged by their own bank for going outside its ATM network. That fee grew by 1.8 percent over the past year to $1.67 per transaction.

The fees on fees mean that if you withdraw $20 from the average out-of-network ATM, you would pay 22.9 percent of that money in bank charges.

ATM fees vary widely depending on where you live, according to Bankrate, which surveyed 10 banks and thrifts in 25 large U.S. markets from July to August.

Though San Francisco may be one of the nation's most expensive cities to live, Bankrate found that the City by the Bay had the lowest average out-of-network ATM fees.

Here are highest and lowest average ATM fees among the 25 cities Bankrate studied:

Highest average ATM fees:
1. Phoenix $5.07
2. Atlanta $5.05
3. Cleveland $4.98
4. Miami $4.94
5. Denver $4.88

Lowest average ATM fees:
21. Boston $4.33 (tie)
21. Philadelphia $4.33 (tie)
22. Los Angeles $4.28
23. Dallas $4.22
24. Cincinnati $3.92
25. San Francisco $3.90

Of course, ATM fees are easily avoided.

"Even smaller banks and credit unions are part of larger ATM networks that won't charge customers fees," said Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst.

You can locate in-network ATMs using your bank's website or phone app, McBride said.

If you don't want to hassle with finding an out-of-the-way ATM in your bank's network, you can get cash back by using your debit card for purchases at the grocery store and pharmacy.

Regardless of what you do, expect out-of-network ATM fees to continue to rise, McBride said.