Big banks abolish ATM withdrawal fees

Starting today for some banks.

The big banks will abolish erosive withdrawal fees from more than 12,000 ATMs in a move that is estimated to save Australians half a billion dollars each year.

The announcement comes at a time when customers have a high level of distrust in the banking sector, which is facing more than a dozen productivity commission inquiries, calls for a Royal Commission and allegations of the Commonwealth Bank laundering terrorism transactions.

CBA set the tempo by announcing its network of 3400 ATMs would no longer charge a $2 withdrawal fee.

"Australians have complained for some time about being charged fees for using another bank's ATM," says Matt Comyn, group executive of retail banking. 

"We think this change will benefit many Australians and hopefully demonstrate our willingness to listen and act on customer feedback."

The announcement comes six years after CHOICE began campaigning for the abolition of ATM fees. It will not extend to the machines of CBA's subsidiary, Bankwest.

But the announcement did place pressure on the remaining big banks. Westpac confirmed hours after CBA that it will no longer charge $2 withdrawal fees from its 2925 ATMs. ANZ then announced its network of 2300 ATMs would follow in October, while NAB said its 3400 ATMs would also eliminate withdrawal fees, though at an undisclosed date.

Data from the Reserve Bank of Australia reveals 250 million people withdrew money from an ATM that did not belong to their bank in the last financial year. At $2 per withdrawal, the change is expected to save Australians $500 million annually.

This represents a win for Australians, says Tom Godfrey, the head of media at CHOICE.

"Accessing your money from a bank account is an essential service that should be free for everyone, rather than an inconvenience with a penalty attached," he says.

"As the UK experience shows, it is possible to run an ATM network where the vast majority of cash withdrawals are free of charge."