ATM cards are causing a cash addiction

  • Wednesday, November 7, 2001 9:00pm
  • Business

When was the last time you used your ATM card?

If you are an average bank customer, you won’t have a hard time remembering.

In fact, consumers value their automatic teller machine cards more than they do their computer, newspaper or cable television, according to a study commissioned by the PULSE EFT Association, one of the largest electronic funds transfer systems.

Using ATM cards to make purchases debited from their checking accounts ranked second only to the home telephone as the most valued consumer convenience, according to the survey.

There’s no question that if you are in a bind and need a bit of cash, having access to an ATM is a good thing. However, the ability to withdraw money at all hours of the day or night can also encourage undisciplined spending.

The PULSE survey and other reports about ATM usage offer proof that we have become a nation with an addiction to quick access to cash.

How many times have you been out on a Saturday and suddenly discovered that you are running low on money halfway through your errands? No problem. Just whip out that ATM card and withdraw $20 for a movie, a quick purchase at the mall or a milkshake and burger.

Star Systems, an electronic payment network, found that one out of five ATM/debit card transactions it processed last year took place on a Saturday. The company reported that all-electronic payment transactions on its systems rose 17.4 percent last year to 2.94 billion — 896 million transactions through automatic teller machines and more than 2 billion debit transactions.

An increasing number of consumers are using their debit cards to make purchases rather than using cash, checks or a credit card. In the PULSE survey, 67.6 percent of purchases were made with a debit card. In 1993, just 20 percent of those surveyed said they relied on debit cards.

Retail locations with ATMs on the premises see their sales increase, according to the ATM Connection, which sells automatic teller machines. Nightclubs, for instance, can expect to see 70 to 80 percent of the dispensed cash. ATM Connection contends that cash retention among large retailers is more than 30 percent.

Just think about the fees so many people are willing to pay to withdraw money from the now ubiquitous ATMs.

More than 65 percent of bank customers surveyed by PULSE said they had used an ATM at a financial institution other than their own to withdraw cash.

The average fees charged by big banks for their own customers to use other banks’ ATMs increased from $1.27 per transaction in 1999 to $1.49 this year, according to a bank fee survey by U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Since 1996, ATM fees have nearly tripled. Whereas customers usually were assessed a $1 fee for using an ATM, they now pay an average of $2.86—with one fee going to their bank and another to the owner of the ATM. In larger cities, those fees sometimes jump to as high as $4.50 a transaction—even if you withdraw as little as $20.

"People are living from $20 to $20," said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer advocate for U.S. PIRG, the national lobbying arm of the State Public Interest Research Groups. "This is a big problem, because it means people are paying high fees to use ATMs and are not keeping track of those fees or what they are spending the money on."

Take a look in your wallet or purse. Is it stuffed with ATM receipts? If so, you can stop wondering where all your money is going. It’s going into an abyss of purchases that you can’t even remember a week later.

Want some control of your cash-flow problem? Schedule your ATM trips. Withdraw what you actually need for the week and make it last. Then tuck that card away.

Try this for a month and I bet you will stop wondering why you are always broke. You will have more money because you will have beaten your addiction to fast cash.

(c) Washington Post Writers Group

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

The Westwood Rainier is one of the seven ships in the Westwood line. The ships serve ports in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Asia. (Photo provided by Swire Shipping)
Westwood Shipping Lines, an Everett mainstay, has new name

The four green-hulled Westwood vessels will keep their names, but the ships will display the Swire Shipping flag.

A Keyport ship docked at Lake Union in Seattle in June 2018. The ship spends most of the year in Alaska harvesting Golden King crab in the Bering Sea. During the summer it ties up for maintenance and repairs at Lake Union. (Keyport LLC)
In crabbers’ turbulent moment, Edmonds seafood processor ‘saved our season’

When a processing plant in Alaska closed, Edmonds-based business Keyport stepped up to solve a “no-win situation.”

Angela Harris, Executive Director of the Port of Edmonds, stands at the port’s marina on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Leadership, love for the Port of Edmonds got exec the job

Shoring up an aging seawall is the first order of business for Angela Harris, the first woman to lead the Edmonds port.

The Cascade Warbirds fly over Naval Station Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald file)
Bothell High School senior awarded $2,500 to keep on flying

Cascade Warbirds scholarship helps students 16-21 continue flight training and earn a private pilot’s certificate.

Rachel Gardner, the owner of Musicology Co., a new music boutique record store on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. Musicology Co. will open in February, selling used and new vinyl, CDs and other music-related merchandise. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Edmonds record shop intends to be a ‘destination for every musician’

Rachel Gardner opened Musicology Co. this month, filling a record store gap in Edmonds.

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Burst pipe permanently closes downtown Everett toy store

After a pipe flooded the store, MyMyToystore in downtown Everett closed. Owner Tom Harrison is already on to his next venture.

Melrose and Vine Collective owner Kara Langus in her vintage collection room at her store on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New and vintage women’s boutique aims to dazzle in downtown Everett

Add some sparkle to your wardrobe: Melrose and Vine Collective opened inside a former bank building on Pacific Avenue.

Garry Clark, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
CEO steps down at Economic Alliance Snohomish County

Garry Clark, who has led the nonprofit chamber of commerce for three years, is leaving to “seek new opportunities.”

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Ex-Seagen CEO to return to Bothell to lead newly relocated biotech firm

Clay Siegall, who resigned from Seagen over allegations of domestic abuse, is now CEO of cancer therapy developer Immunome.

Molbak’s Garden Cafe in Woodinville, Washington. Photographed in 2016. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
‘Shocked and heartbroken’: Woodinville garden store Molbak’s to close

After 67 years, Molbak’s Home + Garden, a mainstay just across the county line, will cease operations early next year.

Good Cheer’s two thrift stores are great places to find Christmas decorations and other knick-knacks. (File photo by David Welton)
A guide to gift buying on Whidbey Island

Consider these unique gift idea suggestions from the South Whidbey Record and the Whidbey News-Times

Senior Hailey Jardine uses the new heat press for DECA to make school apparel at Snohomish High School in Snohomish, Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.  DECA is a national nonprofit for students interested in business. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Hot off the press! Snohomish High School students create custom swag

New heat presses allow teens to make T-shirts, hoodies and gear at the school’s merch store, Panther Pause — with the copyright.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.