From e-mail to broadcast TV programming, search engines to roadside billboards, consumers are accustomed to being inundated with advertisements at every turn. Typically, the tradeoff for being subjected to ads is that consumers get some sort of free or subsidized service. Could this business model also work for ATM transactions, thereby eliminating annoying $3 fees for consumers?
According to a recent survey conducted by Ally Bank, 77% of Americans feel that it’s not OK for banks to charge ATM fees. More than half (56%) of those surveyed said that the proper fee for an ATM transaction is $0. Zilch. Nada. It’s your money you’re accessing, after all, the thinking goes. But, as we all know, banks do charge fees of $2 or $3 at a time to non-customers accessing their cash, and these fees add up in a big way, totaling $7.1 billion in 2010 alone.
Everyone can avoid these fees by using only affiliated ATMs, but, quite obviously, plenty of consumers find it necessary from time to time to use another bank’s machine—even if doing so incurs a fee.
But what if there was another way? What if there was an ATM that anyone could use that never charged fees?
There is one such ATM, actually, and there could be more to come. A company called Free ATMs NYC operates an ATM at a music venue called the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. All users are welcomed to make withdrawals, entirely fee-free. The tradeoff is that while the transaction is occurring, a 15-inch video screen above the ATM shows an advertisement. When the transaction is complete, the customer gets a receipt, along with a little more advertising/marketing in the form of a coupon good for a discount to a local business, perhaps a nearby restaurant.
Even with the ads, the transaction’s done in roughly the same time it takes to get money from any other ATM. The one notable side note is that while the Free ATMs NYC machine doesn’t add on any fees, many banks charge their customers for using non-affiliated machines, and there’s nothing the fee-free ATMs can do about that. You, the customer, could switch to a bank that doesn’t charge such fees—and by some indication, millions of consumers are doing just that.
Free ATMs NYC is the brainchild of a 25-year-old entrepreneur named Clinton Townsend. The company’s home page says that it is aggressively “rolling out a portfolio of Free ATMs throughout New York City,” but so far, there’s just the one fee-free machine in Brooklyn—and only one throughout all of NYC and the U.S. for that matter.
Will the idea catch on, with no-fee ATMs popping up left and right? The concept would surely be popular with consumers. As mentioned earlier, most people think that the proper fee for an ATM transaction is no fee at all, and that’s what Free ATMs NYC delivers.