Mercator: 77 Percent of Consumers Will Do Anything to Duck ATM Fees

May 15, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

With cash still king in the United States and plenty of other places—and it still being one of the most mobile of mobile payments alternatives—a new report sent our way from Mercator makes it clear that the process of getting cash isn’t always as easy, or inexpensive, as we’d like. In fact, the report leads off with a bombshell: when it comes to ATM use, 77 percent of consumers responding to a study would do anything they could to escape ATM fees.

The recent Mercator Insight Summary Report—titled simply yet bluntly enough “ATM and Self-Service Banking: The Importance of Surcharge-Free ATMs”—not only featured the aforementioned bombshell, but carried on from there. The 77 percent figure is actually up from 70 percent in 2016, and customers are more actively seeking out surcharge-free ATMs than ever. In 2011, it was 60 percent actively looking, a number that dropped to 57 percent in 2016. Now, it’s at 67 percent.

The study went on from there, examining the use of self-service banking channels, the use of ATMs for deposits in various configurations—including envelope / no envelope and cash / check options—and more. With 3,001 respondents weighing in, the study has statistical validity on its side.

Mercator Advisory Group senior manager Karen Augustine noted “Given that bank branches are closing in record numbers, and cash cannot be dispensed through mobile channels alone, surcharge-free networks serve a rising need. Surcharge-free ATM network participation is now a top criterion for consumers in selecting a bank or credit union.”

This should be a wake-up call to banks everywhere: abandon ATM fees before your ATMs are ignored. When almost four out of five people will cheerfully drive across town to skip fees, or do something similar, it’s just too obvious a strategy to not take seriously. Granted, there’s still 23 percent of respondents who don’t seem to care much either way, but pursuing a small market comes with a lot of risks in its own right.

In the end, ATM fees are just a bad idea. With so many actively opposed, there’s too much value in getting rid of them and pulling in some potential new customers—who in turn might well take out loans or the like—to risk losing them to the nickel-and-dime ATM fee market.