Why are the fees for ATMs increasing?

For decades, the machine reliably spat out cash. And for free. Most consumers were used to it and they reacted all the more irritated when it became known in the spring that dozens of savings banks and VR banks are now paying for this service - sometimes for years, unnoticed by customers and the media. Some financial institutions charge a double-digit cent amount with some account models when you first go to the machine, others allow two, three or five withdrawals free of charge.

The savings banks from Aurich to Wittgenstein argued similarly at the time: there would be costs if they provided customers with cash. Kersten Trojanus has known for a long time that this is the case. He is the managing director of the ATM operator IC Cash and charges a fee on each of his devices - depending on the location, sometimes just under two euros, sometimes five, sometimes even more. These fees are necessary because so-called third-party providers such as IC Cash cannot cross-finance their operations through the credit business as the banks have been up to now. Trojanus says: "The commercial banks are aware that they do not make money with ATMs."

Companies like his, on the other hand, have always had to break even - and earn money on top of that. Expenses abound, says Trojanus. He hires employees who are busy complying with the regulations of the financial supervisory authority Bafin, he pays rent for the locations, buys ATMs and has them maintained. And: He has them refilled with cash every few days, one of the biggest cost factors, as Trojanus says. Around seven percent of its expenses go to the cash-in-transit company that safely transports the cash from the warehouse to the machine. Trojanus expects that a withdrawal will cost his company a total of 3.50 to four euros.

Thomas Wollmann, CEO of Investors Marketing, a consultancy specializing in financial services, doubts whether every bank knows how much effort it takes when a customer withdraws money from the machine. "Well-organized commercial banks and savings banks know what a withdrawal costs, but the additional costs are often lost at smaller institutions," believes the consultant. He assumes that the banks will have to pay 20 to 70 cents per withdrawal. Significantly less than with IC Cash, because banks allocate rental, heating or personnel costs to the branch - but it is still a noticeable item. Noticeably at least since the banks are making less money in times of low interest rates.

But how are the institutes supposed to make it clear to their customers that they should suddenly pay for a service that has been free for a long time? At least not in the way some have tried, find consumer advocates - namely apparently arbitrary. In the spring, some VR banks caused a stir when it became known that they charge different fees depending on the time of day. Some institutes were "too creative" with their prices, also thinks Wollmann. Nonetheless, he believes that a fee will become commonplace, at least from the third or sixth withdrawal onwards. "In this interest rate environment, the banks have to pass on at least some of their costs," he says.

However, there are two possible alternatives: Either the monthly prices for the current account rise again noticeably or the institutes dismantle machines. Should the second happen more and more, it should come in handy for customers if they can withdraw money from even more retailers in the future. There also for free.