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<p>MADISON, Wis. – The $504 million University of Wisconsin Credit Union, based in Madison has decided to stop charging nonmember users of its ATMs a $1 fee for making withdrawals from the machines, claiming that the credit union had imposed the fee more to cut back on use of its ATMs by non-members than to raise revenue from the machines. “Before they imposed the fee there were several of our machines, particularly on campuses, which regularly ran out of money,” explained Quinn Williams, Financial Specialist for the credit union. “Members would arrive and not be able to get any cash so they imposed the fee mostly in the hope of discouraging such heavy use of the machines,” he said. Williams admitted that the possibility of increased revenue helped the credit union make the decision, but denied that it had been the primary reason behind the choice. But the year-old policy caused use of the machines to “drop off the cliff,” Williams reported, and had hurt the credit union income from ATM use. Each time a nonmember user withdraws cash from one of the machines the credit union gets between twenty and forty cents in interchange income, Williams explained, but if the machine transaction volume falls then there is no income at all. The credit union concluded the fee was simply not worth it, he said. Industry wide fee income from ATMs has been dropping as more savvy consumers have changed the way they have used ATMs or have stuck to their own financial institution’s ATMs where there are generally no fees, but Susan Zawodniak, director of the NYCE Network, which includes both banks and credit unions, says its too early to tell if the credit union’s actions are part of an overall trend. “I think it’s a wonderful precedent, speaking as a consumer,” Zawodniak said, “but we will just have to see. As surcharging has been introduced we have seen movements in the market several times from one mode to another so it just remains to be seen” what will happen, she said. Jeff Green, a spokesman for CO-OP Network, said the decisions on whether or not to charge nonmember or foreign users for ATM transactions remained with the individual credit union members and that the Network did not track how individual credit unions chose to handle foreign users to its ATMs. But if the University of Wisconsin CU imposed the fee to discourage ATM use by nonmembers, won’t that problem simply reappear now that the credit union has stopped charging the fee? “No, we will simply start servicing those machines with the highest transaction volumes a lot more often,” Williams said, adding that the bigger challenge will be to educate the non-members that they can once again use the credit union’s ATMs without paying additional fees. [email protected]</p>

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