How to Set Your ATM Surcharge

There are some fees associated with operating an ATM machine. The fees cover the costs of the operation. Some fees are passed on to you, the ATM owner. Others, like an ATM surcharge, are passed on to the users.

It’s important to understand all of the fees so that you can control and maximize your revenue. But perhaps the most important fee is the ATM surcharge. That is where the bulk of your profit comes from.

We’ll tell you how it works, how much you should charge, and some strategies to keep in mind to help drive as much traffic to your ATM as possible.

What is an ATM Surcharge?

An ATM surcharge is the fee the user is charged to make a transaction on your machine. The ATM owner has complete control over this fee. You decide whether or not to charge an ATM surcharge and how much it is.

You earn the ATM surcharge by providing a convenient service to users. Users pay the ATM surcharge in exchange for the convenience of avoiding a trip to the bank. 

The surcharge is how you as an independent ATM owner makes a profit, but it’s also how you pay to operate your business. The ATM surcharge helps cover

  • The purchase of the machine
  • Parts costs
  • Maintenance
  • Signage
  • Receipt paper
  • Insurance
  • Etc.

Basically, the surcharge fee is how you make back your investment with the opportunity to profit.

On average, ATM surcharge fees are $2.50, but they can range from $0-$8. So how much are you going to charge your customers to use your ATM?

How to Set Your ATM Surcharge

There are many factors to consider when it comes to setting your ATM surcharge. Above all, you want to maximize your profit. But too high of a surcharge and you might lose traffic to lower-surcharge ATMs. 

Of course, you can adjust the surcharge fee based on activity. Try one strategy and monitor your traffic and transactions. Then make adjustments as necessary. Here are some things to consider:

Return on Investment (ROI)

Before you can profit from your ATM, you have to make back the cost of the purchase of the machine. One strategy for determining your ATM surcharge is to calculate how much you have invested and how much time you’d like to spend making it back.

Your investment might include the cost of purchasing the machine, any extra features or add-ons, signage, insurance, etc. Will you purchase an enclosure for the machine? Do you need to invest in extra security for an outdoor ATM machine? 

What about maintenance and up-keep? How much will you spend on receipt paper in a month? Do you live or work in close proximity to your ATM? If you will be refilling the machine yourself, you’ll want to reimburse yourself for the time and cost associated with travel. These are all factors to consider. 

Add up everything you spend to get your ATM up and running to determine how much you need to make back. You can expect your ATM to get about 5-6 transactions per day. That equates to 150-180 a month. Multiply that by your surcharge and calculate how quickly you can start making a profit.

You might want to start with a higher surcharge to make back your investment as soon as possible. Then you can lower the surcharge over time. But you don’t want to lose traffic, so you want to consider your customers as well when determining your ATM surcharge.

Customers

You will make more money by getting more traffic to your ATM. This might be a reason to start with a lower surcharge. It just depends on your competition. Is there another ATM close by? To introduce your new ATM to customers and entice them to use yours over others, you might offer a competitive surcharge fee.

You’ll want to consider demographics as well. Lower-income areas might require a lower ATM surcharge while wealthier communities might not blink at a higher than average ATM surcharge. You need to consider the average withdrawal amount, too. 

The average withdrawal amount is between $60 and $100. If the average withdrawal amount from your machine is on the higher end, you might consider a higher surcharge fee. And vice versa. It seems more reasonable to pay $3 to withdraw $200 than it does to withdraw $60.

There are also some locations that typically charge higher surcharge fees than others. Patrons of casinos and gentlemen’s clubs, for example, tend to spend large amounts of cash, so a $3.00+ surcharge seems small in comparison to the amount withdrawn.

If your ATM is located in a casino or gentlemen’s club, you also have the market cornered. The surcharge fee can be higher because of the added convenience. Customers of these establishments tend to stay a while and aren’t able to easily run to the gas station or parking lot just to take advantage of a smaller surcharge. 

So, it goes without saying that customers expect a small surcharge from ATMs in locations they visit during their day-to-day activities. This includes restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, etc.

Location Owner

Depending on your site location agreement (SLA), you may or may not be splitting the surcharge fee with the location owner. Sometimes store owners will be content to have the increased business and let you have the surcharge as your share of the profit.

Convenience stores, for example, experience 23% more in sales from ATM users than from non-ATM users according to ATM Marketplace. With the opportunity to see a 20% increase in sales with the installation of an ATM machine in their stores, store owners benefit from your machine by getting more traffic and sales alone.

However, if you are in partnership with a location owner who needs more incentive to agree to share the space, you might have to negotiate a portion of the surcharge fee. This will likely result in a higher ATM surcharge so that you are still able to make a profit that makes it worth your while.

And the location owner might have his or her own input regarding how much to charge. After all, the location owner knows the customers and competition best. 

The location owner will know what amount is convenient for the customers based on the average transaction amounts made in the store. But, he or she will want to maintain a competitive surcharge fee since the bulk of his or her incentive relies on increased traffic to and sales from the store. A higher than average number of transactions could make up for the loss of a higher surcharge.

Are there any other third parties you need to split the profit with? Will you hire a vaulter to load the machine for you? Do you have any business partners? If you will be sharing the profit, you might want to set a higher surcharge to make it worth everyone’s time.

Surcharge-Free ATMs

“Surcharge avoiders” will go out of their way to use a machine that doesn’t charge them to make transactions. As you can imagine, surcharge-free ATMs drive more traffic than most. But if you aren’t making any money per transaction, what’s the point?

If you own an ATM at a location owned by someone else, you probably shouldn’t offer surcharge-free transactions exclusively. Because the surcharge is where your profit comes from.

However, if you are the store owner who wants to add an ATM to enhance your business and better serve your customers, the increase in traffic and sales in your store could bring in enough revenue for it to be worth forfeiting the surcharge fee. 

So what you have to consider at the end of the day is whether the surcharge-free ATM will attract enough new business to offset the loss of revenue required to cover the ATM overhead and surcharge profit. And this might depend on competition.

If there is another surcharge-free ATM nearby, you might not get enough new business to make that revenue loss worth it. If there isn’t another surcharge-free ATM nearby, you stand to gain a significant advantage over other ATM locations that do charge a fee.

Surcharge Fee vs. ATM Interchange

There are other fees associated with ATM operation as well. An ATM interchange fee, for example, is a fee charged by the network your ATM is connected to. 

Banks have to pay the networks (Plus, Cirrus, Star, NYCE, etc.) to route out-of-network transactions to the correct account. If you’ve ever wondered why you can usually withdraw funds from your bank’s ATM but are charged a fee at non-bank ATMs, this is why. Your card is in-network for use at your bank.

Interchange is typically how ATM processing companies and bank sponsors make money. Sometimes ATM owners are able to take part in a share of the interchange fee, but it depends on how your provider operates. You’ll want to work with them to get in on any interchange profits.

For the purpose of setting your surcharge, all you need to know is that surcharge fees and interchange fees are separate. You do not need to consider ATM interchange when determining how to set your surcharge.

Conclusion

The good news is that the ATM surcharge is completely up to you and your partners. The bad news is that there is a lot to consider to get it just right. Setting your ATM surcharge will require a degree of strategy. But again, you can test and adjust as necessary. See what works and what doesn’t to get the maximum profit. 

If you’d like to get an estimate on what a potential ATM location could make in profits, check out our ATM surcharge calculators. These calculators will help you determine if the surcharge you’re looking to set would satisfy your ROI.

When you work with ATM Depot, you keep 100% of your surcharge. Not all providers work the same way. So ask around and find a system that works best for you. If you have more questions, contact a representative today!

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