J.P. Morgan Chase and other banks are trying to recoup approximately $30 billion a year in lost overdraft fee income by testing $5 ATM fees, Consumer Action spokesman Joe Ridout told CNBC.
These banks have "historically been reliant on overdraft fees," he said, so they're "coming up with new ways to make up the difference." He said higher ATM fees and other rising costs penalize small depositors.
Nessa Feddis, spokeswoman with the American College of Consumer Financial Services, agreed there are "enormous pressures on banks because of lost revenue."
But she insisted that "most people don't pay ATM fees. Only non-customers who otherwise pay nothing to contribute to the cost of providing the ATMs pay the fee. That is fair because otherwise they are not contributing to the cost of providing the service."
She blamed "price controls that the government is imposing" for drastically limiting debit card interchange fees.
"Those debit card interchange fees — and you’re talking about a penny on the dollar — basically not only provide value to the merchant but they also support the cost of providing debit cards and checking accounts. Until now, we’ve been lucky with (banks offering) a lot of free accounts. I think we will see that go away."
Ridout said the banks are exchanging in political brinksmanship by using the threat of higher ATM fees to "encourage" pressure on the Federal Reserve to "tamp down what this interchange cap is going to be." The Fed issued draft interchange fee rules in December.
Ridout said no one is forcing the banks to charge higher ATM fees, and consumers have other choices if they don't want to pay them.
Credit unions don't charge fees, he said, because they "don’t aim to turn a profit, they have not relied on overdraft fees that gouge consumers and they don’t pay their executives eight-figure salaries or multi-million-dollar bonuses and they don’t have to come up with rinky-dink fees to support these irresponsible levels of compensation."