Do people in other countries have to pay expensive fees when they withdraw funds from another bank’s ATM?
In Australia, if you use your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM that isn’t owned by your bank, you can expect to be hit with a charge of between $1.50 and $2.50 per transaction. The subject of ATM fees has generated widespread outrage and frustration among Australian consumers in recent years, as we grow increasingly fed up with the banks taking a chunk out of our money each time we make a withdrawal from another bank’s ATM. In fact, a 2014 survey by research firm Galaxy found that ATM fees are the most hated of all charges imposed by Australian banks.
But are these ATM fees standard practice for banks the world over, or are Australian customers being rorted by the fat cats of the banking industry? To find out, we need to examine the fees that apply and how much bank customers in other countries are charged.
What ATM fees apply?
You’re just about to head out for dinner with friends and a night on the town, but when you get to the restaurant you realise you don’t have any cash in your wallet. So you begin the search for the nearest ATM to get some cash to pay for dinner, drinks and whatever other entertainment the night may hold.
But, as always seems to be the case, there is no ATM for your bank anywhere in sight, and you’re left with little choice but to use another bank’s ATM and accept the fee they charge for the privilege. While this fee is only a small amount — usually around a couple of bucks — it’s incredibly frustrating and feels like nothing more than a sneaky rip-off.
The banks say they charge these fees, sometimes referred to as ‘foreign ATM fees’, to cover the fixed costs of maintaining its ATM networks. However, a 2011 paper by the Reserve Bank of Australia actually showed that the revenue banks generate from such fees isn’t enough to cover the cost of running their ATM networks.
So how much do you have to pay for the privilege of using another bank’s ATM? It should be noted that the ATM owner may charge their own fees on top of the bank's withdrawal fee. Australian banks charge the following fees when non-customers withdraw cash from one of its ATMs:
- Commonwealth Bank: $2
- ANZ Bank: $2
- Westpac (including St.George): $2
- NAB: $2
- Suncorp: $2.50
- Bankwest: $2
- Bendigo Bank: $2
Say you’re a Commonwealth Bank customer and over the course of any given month you make five withdrawals from ATMs owned by another bank. That works out to be $10 in fees a month and $120 over the course of a year — and that’s money which ends up filling a bank’s coffers when it could just as easily be sitting in your account. That’s why it’s worth checking your bank statements to work out just how much you’re coughing up in unnecessary fees on a regular basis.
For a full list of ATM fees and charges in Australia, check out our handy guide here.
ATM fees around the world
If you find Australia’s ATM fees annoying, you’ll probably be even more frustrated to learn that such fees are far from the norm around the world. In countries such as Ireland, Japan, Norway and Sweden, it’s free to use another bank’s ATM. Having said that, there are plenty of other countries around the world where similar fees do apply, such as in the UK where they range from £1 to £1.50 per transaction.
The table below outlines the fees that apply in countries around the world:
|Country||Fee for an ATM withdrawal||Converted into AUD|
|Germany||EUR 1.95 to EUR 5||$2.85 to $7.30|
|Spain||EUR 0 to EUR 1||$0 to $1.46|
|United Kingdom||GBP 1 to GBP 1.50||$1.88 to $2.82|
|Hong Kong||HKD 15 to HKD 30||$2.51 to $5.01|
|Thailand||THB 10 to THB 20||$0.37 to $0.74|
|The Philippines||PHP 200||$5.53|
|Pakistan||PKR 0 to PKR 20||$0 to $0.25|
|Sri Lanka||LKR 15 to LKR 60||$0.13 to $0.53|
As you can see, Australia’s fee system is much the same as that present in the UK, but there are still plenty of countries around the world where no fees are payable when you use another bank’s ATM.
How do I avoid ATM fees?
- Withdraw less frequently. Instead of withdrawing $20 or $40 several times a week, why not withdraw $100 or $200 in one go? This will help ensure that you always have cash on hand when you need it and let you avoid unnecessary ATM fees, so preparing a weekly budget will help you work out how much money you need to withdraw at any one time.
- Stay in your bank’s network. Whenever possible, try to use an ATM owned by your bank, or owned by a company with which your bank has a partnership. For example, Commonwealth Bank customers can use all Bankwest ATMs at 7-Eleven stores, while Westpac customers enjoy fee-free use of St.George, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne ATMs.
- Use ATM locators. Most Australian banks have tools on their websites and mobile apps to help you find your nearest ATM. Put these tools to use if you ever need to find your nearest fee-free place to withdraw cash.
- Cash back at checkout. If you use your bank card to pay for groceries via EFTPOS, consider withdrawing extra cash at the same time.
- No ATM fee accounts. Some transaction accounts have limits on the maximum number of ATM transactions you can perform each month without incurring a fee. Make sure you’re aware of these limits or that you choose an account with no monthly transaction limits.
- Pay with card instead of cash. These days, most modern merchants have the capability to accept credit or debit card payments. The amount of times you actually have to use cash to pay for your purchases is actually quite small, so consider paying with your card instead of cash wherever possible.
- Remember that you’re not just charged for withdrawals. As well as a fee for withdrawing cash, many banks will charge a fee of up to $2 if you use one of their ATMs to check your account balance. You can perform the same task for free via internet banking, so don’t use an ATM to check your balance unless you’re fully aware of any fees that may apply.