ATM fees now legally hidden from view

Hand keying in an ATM code

Good luck figuring out how much some other bank's ATM will charge you before you put your card in the slot.

As part of an amendment to the Electronic Fund Transfer Act approved by Congress and signed by President Obama, banks are no longer required to place signs on their ATMs explaining how much they cost to use.

That means you'll have to wait until after you swipe your card, enter your passcode and seek a withdrawal before you'll learn how much you'll be charged for using an out-of-network ATM.

After all that, you're less likely to change your mind, even if you realize you're going to be paying $3.50 or more for the privilege of getting your money (on top of whatever your bank charges you for straying).

The banks know this, which is why this legislation is so nefarious.

Highest ATM Fees

Place Average fee
Denver $2.80
New York (metro) $2.70
Seattle $2.70
San Francisco $2.69
Houston $2.69
National average $2.50
Source: Bankrate.com 2012 Checking Account Survey

The argument for the bill is that the required signs have resulted in frivolous lawsuits (if the fee wasn't posted — or was removed — you could sue the bank for $100 to $1,000 for each transaction from which you incurred a fee). But what we're really seeing is a win for the banks that are going to collect more fees from the same consumers they're already constantly dinging.

There's not much you can do except decline the transaction and find another ATM, or switch to a bank or credit union that reimburses you for out-of-network ATM charges.

Otherwise, you'll be contributing to the banks' victory.