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Chase Dumps $5 ATM Fee; Consumers Win (for Now)

In what appears to be at least temporary win for consumers, Chase announced yesterday that it is ending the $4 to $5 ATM fee it was charging to non-customers in two test markets. The experiment only lasted two months.

Did it not generate as much revenue as the bank had hoped? Is the test coming to other markets? Was it getting too much criticism? A JP Morgan Chase representative wouldn't say. "The initiative was a test in Illinois and Texas. The test is over and we returned non-customer ATM fees in Illinois and Texas to $3. That's really all we have to say on the topic," a spokesperson told me.

All right, but here's another question: Is this evidence that consumers do have the power to influence banks? Part of me thinks people saw the $5 fee and fled. Otherwise, if the bank had earned more than it expected from the test, why would it have ended it so abruptly?

When Chase first said it was raising fees to $5 in certain states, the public took aim. The media was also very critical; the Wall Street Journal reported at the time that "banking now is starting to feel like the airline industry."

Interestingly enough, Chase's news arrives right around the time when we're hearing more and more about lawsuits against non-member ATM fees. The Detroit Free Press reports that, "a cottage industry of plaintiffs firms have spawned a flurry of ATM fee lawsuits ... The suits have triggered settlements ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to $2.5 million." Yet another sign of consumers fighting back.

So while we can't be completely sure why Chase ended its test, let this news be a lesson to all of us that if we're not happy with our bank or don't want to face higher fees - we can take our business elsewhere. No hard feelings.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv, and on Twitter.
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