Consumers' Real-World Cost of Cash: A Defining Moment for ATM Deployers and Merchants


Consumers run into plenty of tacked-on charges in today’s world — hello airline baggage fees! — but the ATM fee, small as it is, is up near the top in terms of generating aggravation. There’s just something patently absurd and beyond annoying about paying money to get your money.

— Time

Editor's note: There's no question that "tacked-on" fees annoy consumers. As suggested in a commentary last week, educating ATM users about surcharge fees is the ATM deployer's best solution for protecting the industry's public image.

Or is it? Today's commentary suggests a very different remedy for managing consumers' fee frustration.

by Clinton Townsend and Eric Fondren Co-founders of FreeATM

Consumers believe that they have worked hard for their money and, with the abundance of independent ATM locations, the only differentiation they notice is price, not convenient access. In order to truly understand why consumers hate ATM fees so much, we must first know our customers and listen to the feedback we receive concerning the losing value propositions they may encounter while transacting in the local marketplace.

The Landscape of Local Commerce

The Federal Reserve reports that one-third of consumer transactions are less than $10, two-thirds of which are paid for in cash. However, in an urban market like New York you’ll likely run into the inevitable sign at the cash register of your local deli or bar saying “cash only” or “Minimum for Debit/Credit Cards: $10.” This leaves consumers searching for cash, and the convenience of many merchants to have an ATM is not always in the consumer's favor.