New BofA charge irks some students

By Heather Moore
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 3, 1996

Erik Voogd saw Bank of America's ATM wasn't being used, but opted to wait in line to use the Saguaro Credit Union ATM instead.

"I avoid BofA ATMs," said the molecular and cellular biology major, who banks with First Interstate.

On Monday, Bank of America started charging non-customers $1 to use its ATMs, said David Howell, vice president of corporate communication for BofA.

Non-customers will be notified of the charge at the beginning of the transaction and will have the option of cancelling it, he said.

The fee will be charged directly to the customer, Howell said. For example, if a non-customer withdraws $40, his account will be debited $41.

This new surcharge resulted from a policy change that now allows an ATM owner to directly charge non-customers for using its ATMs. Visa International, which operates the Plus system, and MasterCard International, which runs Cirrus, decided to lift the ban that restricted ATM owners from charging customers. Plus and Cirrus are the two major ATM networks in the United States.

"We have invested millions of dollars in our ATM network for the use and convenience of our customers," Howell said. "This new policy allows for recompensation."

But Voogd said, "It's bad enough that we already pay as much as we do."

On average, ATM users are charged a $2 interchange network fee when they use another bank's ATM or sometimes even at certain ATMs owned by their own bank. Interchange networks link the records of different banks, allowing companies to complete transactions.

The interchange charges the ATM owner and then the owner bills the non-customer's bank. That bank then passes this fee on to its customers in their monthly statements.

Voogd said he pays $12 to $15 in these charges each month.

Tom Ellis, First Interstate Bank spokesman, said his bank would not be implementing a new surcharge at this time.

Steve Roman, senior vice president of Bank One, said Bank One has not made any changes in its policy. He said the purpose of the surcharge is so the bank can get paid for the use of its ATM.

"Our ATM network loses money," he said.

Nick Vickers, a postdoctorate research assistant and Saguaro Credit Union member, said he uses only Saguaro's ATMs to avoid paying any kind of fee.

"It's not necessary to use other machines," he said. "It's just losing money."