UC Davis economist Chris Knittel is the co-author of a study on consumer welfare and ATMs. He says even though consumers have to pay a fee to use another bank’s automatic teller machine, the surcharge is actually a benefit in disguise for most people.
But he says it depends on where you live. "In urban areas we find that the growth in ATMs due to surcharges outweighs the negative affect of the fees whereas in rural areas consumers seem to be harmed by the existence of surcharges mostly because ATMs have not grown as fast in rural areas compared to urban areas."
He says since ATMs make life more convenient, the fees ultimately benefit urban consumers. The study uses data on consumer deposit account choices from around the country.