The abundance of ATMs (automatic teller machines, also known as instant cash machines) means currency is never very far away. But the "right" machine seldom seems close by. estimates that the annualized cost of ATM fees in 2005 will reach nearly $4 billion. The firm estimated that in 1999, Americans spent $2.77 billion on ATM charges.

Check the fees associated with your cards carefully; many banks don't charge customers for using a machine inside their network but will for ATMs outside their network. According to, the average fee a bank charges a customer for using an out-of-network ATM rose from $1.29 to $1.35 in the 2005 study.

Likewise, ATM owners charge noncustomers a surcharge for processing a transaction from a user not in its network. The average surcharge moved from $1.37 to $1.40.

Fees and surcharges of $2 or more are not uncommon. Withdrawing $40 from a machine outside your bank's network could cost you a $2 user fee and a $2 surcharge. That's a fee of $4, or 10 percent, to get your 40 bucks.

Patrick Kennedy