There is an increasing level of financial uncertainty amongst the citizens of the US, a situation which is not helped by indecisive government or an inherent absence of concise fiscal planning. As the federal government continue to debate the details of spending cuts for the coming fiscal year, so too increasingly inappropriate financial fees and charges are being applied to everyday functions, serving only to make a a difficult existence even more troublesome for family units and individuals of the numerous states.
Put simply, a disproportionate burden of the nations debt is been placed upon the shoulders of ordinary citizens, with the inevitable consequence that they are finding it difficult to manage their finances. It is a frequent but distasteful corollary of many recessions, whereby an issue caused in the main by irresponsible government expenditure or lending becomes an issue for the people, leaving them to face economic constraints amidst rising unemployment and social hardship.
Rising ATM Fees in the US
An example of the everyday expenditure issues are hindering the citizens of the US can be witnessed through rising ATM fees, which apply to non customers who use a machine outside of their network. These fees have been in existence for some time, but their continued rise is at odds with the current financial situation facing most of middle class society. Quite aside from the timing, there is a separate issue concerning the methodology utilized by banks and financial organizations, especially those who retain a large amount of ATM’s within a small geographical area.
If we assess the timing, then we see J P Morgan Chase implementing $5 and $4 fees in Illinois and Texas respectively, at a time where these areas are witnessing high unemployment and increased economic stress. This is being done as a trial exercise to see whether the increased fees are viable nationwide, and whether they are generative in terms of revenue. Of the bank’s total number of ATM’s, 20 percent are operated within these two states, as part of a huge network that they have built over a significant period of time.
At face value, it would appear that the move shows little financial or social awareness on behalf of the bank, who refused to comment directly when the story emerged. However, another view is that they are in fact displaying an acute awareness of both the economic climate and their own market position, and that inflated charges are aimed at exploiting this for financial gain. If the latter is true, then it is a further insult to the intelligence of citizens, who faced a global recession due largely to irresponsible lending by banks and financial organizations.
An Ethical Concern
This also raises a concern about the policies and operational procedures employed by banks, especially those who build a specific network of ATM machines are levy charges for non customers to use their apparatus. Given the fact that the geographical split of these owned machines is not balanced, it would suggest that are strategically placed in areas where a bank has a minimal amount of customers, enabling them to derive a financial revenue without having to acquire the business of new individuals.
Such issues are pertinent, but even if these it could be addressed it would not resolve the chief concern that charging consumers to access their own money is fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional. For instance, individuals are free within a democratic environment to pursue careers and earn individual wealth, which they are then encouraged to save and retain within a checking or savings account. To then charge them for accessing this accrued capital, regardless of the specific ATM that they use, serves as an unofficial and ill deserved additional tax.
The Future of Banking Charges
This concern aside, it is fair to note that banks have employed ATM charges for a substantial length of time, and have managed to do so without serious opposition to its cause. As it has become accepted however, banks have sought to gradually raise the payable charge, from what could be described as a token service charge to one which can often equate to a significant percentage of the fiscal amount withdrawn. This practice is one of pure opportunism, and has result in proposed $5 charges that have no relevance to the service provided.
Of course, this has a domino effect on other banks, meaning that institution that previously waived charges for non customers who utilized their ATM machines have now began to implement minimal fees. This is bound to continue, to the obvious point in time where all ATM machines will carry an extortionate operational fee nationwide, often claiming up to 25 percent of small withdrawals. This is unless the government seek to involve themselves, and either push to render fees obsolete or, more realistically, place a financial cap on the levy that banks can charge for ATM usage.